With Transfer of Ahmed Al-Darbi to Saudi Arabia, Guantánamo’s Population Drops to 40; No New Arrivals on Horizon

Guantanamo prisoner Ahmed al-Darbi, with a photo of his children, in a photo taken several years ago by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

So there was good news on Wednesday, when the Pentagon announced that Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi citizen in Guantánamo, had been repatriated, to serve out the rest of a 13-year sentence that he was given as the result of a plea deal that he agreed in his trial by military commission in February 2014.

Under the terms of that plea deal, al-Darbi acknowledged his role in an-Qaeda attack on a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen’s coast in 2002, and was required to testify against other prisoners at Guantánamo as part of their military commission trials, which he did last summer, and was supposed to be released on February 20 this year.

However, February 20 came and went, and al-Darbi wasn’t released, a situation that threatened to undermine the credibility of the military commission plea deals. Read the rest of this entry »

Lawyers for Guantánamo Torture Victim Mohammed Al-Qahtani Urge Court to Enable Mental Health Assessment and Possible Repatriation to Saudi Arabia

Mohammed al-Qahtani, in a photo included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011. Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Last Thursday, lawyers for Mohammed al-Qahtani, the only prisoner at Guantánamo whose torture was admitted by a senior official in the George W. Bush administration, urged Judge Rosemary Collyer of the District Court in Washington, D.C. to order the government “to ask for his current condition to be formally examined by a mixed medical commission, a group of neutral doctors intended to evaluate prisoners of war for repatriation,” as Murtaza Hussain reported for the Intercept. He added that the commission “could potentially order the government to release him from custody and return him home to Saudi Arabia, based on their evaluation of his mental and physical state.”

A horrendous torture program, approved by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was developed for al-Qahtani after it was discovered that he was apparently intended to have been the 20th hijacker for the 9/11 attacks. As Hussain stated, court documents from his case state that he was subject to “solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, extreme temperature and noise exposure, stress positions, forced nudity, body cavity searches, sexual assault and humiliation, beatings, strangling, threats of rendition, and water-boarding.” On two occasions he was hospitalized with a dangerously low heart rate. The log of that torture is here, and as Hussain also explained, “The torture that Qahtani experienced at Guantánamo also exacerbated serious pre-existing mental illnesses that he suffered as a youth in Saudi Arabia — conditions so severe that he was committed to a mental health facility there in 2000, at the age of 21.”

The high-level acknowledgement of al-Qahtani’s torture, mentioned above, came just before George W. Bush left office, when Susan Crawford, the convening authority for the military commission trial system at Guantánamo, told Bob Woodward, “We tortured Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture.” She was explaining why she had refused to refer his case for prosecution. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Perpetual Imprisonment at Guantánamo – Andy Worthington Interviewed by Linda Olson-Osterlund on Portland’s KBOO FM

A screenshot of Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Last week, I was delighted to talk to Linda Olson-Osterlund for the morning show, Political Perspectives, on KBOO FM, a community radio station in Portland, Oregon. Linda has been talking to me about Guantánamo for many years, and it’s always a pleasure to talk to her. 

The show is available hereand here as an MP3 — and I hope you have time to listen to it, and will share it if you find it useful. Unfortunately, KBOO had a new telephone system, which didn’t allow foreign calls, and so the first 12 minutes of the show feature some music by Bill Frissell, before Linda introduced me at 12:20, prior to our interview beginning at 15:00.

Linda and I spent the first ten minutes talking about the habeas corpus petition submitted by lawyers for eleven of the remaining 41 prisoners at Guantánamo on January 11, the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison. As I explained in a recent article, the lawyers argued, as a press release by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights put it, that “[Donald] Trump’s proclamation against releasing anyone from Guantánamo, regardless of their circumstances, which has borne out for the first full year of the Trump presidency, is arbitrary and unlawful and amounts to ‘perpetual detention for detention’s sake.’” Read the rest of this entry »

Stunning Victory as US Court Rules That Contractors’ Treatment of Prisoners at Abu Ghraib Constituted “Torture, War Crimes, and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment”

An image of the crucified figure from Abu Ghraib that I found on a 2009 Uprising Radio page.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

It has taken ten years, but on Wednesday (February 21), a US judge, District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, ruled that “the treatment of three Iraqi individuals formerly detained at the infamous ‘hard site’ at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq constitutes torture, war crimes, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, based on a thorough review of US domestic and international law.”

The victory was described in a press release by the Center for Constitutional Rights, who, with other lawyers, first submitted the case ten long years ago, under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which “allows non-US citizens to sue for violations of international law committed abroad that ‘touch and concern’ the United States. I wrote about it back in September, when Judge Brinkema allowed the case to proceed.

As I also explained at the time:

In the long legal journey to this important day, as CCR stated, “the Fourth Circuit denied CACI’s attempt to have the case dismissed under the ‘political question’ doctrine” in October 2016, and in June this year the District Court “affirmed that war crimes, torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are well-recognized and definable norms and thus fall within the court’s jurisdiction” under the Alien Tort Statute. The court then “ordered both parties to brief whether the record supports a finding that the plaintiffs suffered these violations,” and, as CCR noted, “Shortly after, CACI moved to dismiss the case,” the move that has just been turned down.

Read the rest of this entry »

Good News: Court Orders Trump Administration to Explain Its Position on Guantánamo After A Year of Shocking Inaction

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and a photo of the prison at Guantanamo Bay on the day of its opening, Jan. 11, 2002.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Two and a half weeks ago, on the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, lawyers for eleven of the 41 men still held at Guantánamo, from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve, and other legal firms, filed a habeas corpus lawsuit with the District Court in Washington, D.C., in which, as I explained in an article at the time, drawing on a CCR press release:

[I]t “argues that Trump’s proclamation against releasing anyone from Guantánamo, regardless of their circumstances, which has borne out for the first full year of the Trump presidency, is arbitrary and unlawful and amounts to ‘perpetual detention for detention’s sake.’”

CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei said, “It’s clear that a man who thinks we should water-board terror suspects even if it doesn’t work, because ‘they deserve it, anyway’ has no qualms about keeping every last detainee in Guantanamo, so long as he holds the jailhouse key.”

CCR’s press release also stated, “The filing argues that continued detention is unconstitutional because any legitimate rationale for initially detaining these men has long since expired; detention now, 16 years into Guantánamo’s operation, is based only on Trump’s raw antipathy towards Guantánamo prisoners – all foreign-born Muslim men – and Muslims more broadly,” adding that “Donald Trump’s proclamation that he will not release any detainees during his administration reverses the approach and policies of both President Bush and President Obama, who collectively released nearly 750 men.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Abandoning Guantánamo: The Supreme Court’s Shame as a Military Commission Appeal Is Turned Down

Protestors against rh existence of Guantanamo outside the US Supreme Court on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

On Tuesday (October 10), when the Supreme Court turned down an appeal submitted by Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a Guantánamo prisoner convicted of terrorism charges in October 2008 in a military commission trial, the justices demonstrated that, for over nine years now, they have proved incapable of fulfilling their role of upholding the law when it comes to issues relating to terrorism.

This is a profound disappointment, because, four months before al-Bahlul’s conviction, on June 12, 2008, those who respect the law — and basic human decency — were thrilled when the Supreme Court delivered a major ruling in favor of the prisoners at Guantánamo. In Boumediene v. Bush, the justices ruled that the prisoners had constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights; in other words, that they could ask an impartial judge to rule on whether or not their imprisonment was justified.

The ruling was the third major ruling by the Supreme Court regarding Guantánamo. In June 2006, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the court had ruled that the military commission trial system at Guantánamo did not have “the power to proceed because its structures and procedures violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949.” The court also ruled that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, prohibiting torture and “humiliating and degrading treatment,” had been violated. Read the rest of this entry »

What Should Trump Do With the US Citizen Seized in Syria and Held in Iraq as an “Enemy Combatant”?

"Detainee Holding Cell": a US military sign, origin unknown.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

It’s nearly a month since my curiosity was first piqued by an article in the Daily Beast by Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman, reporting that a US citizen fighting for ISIS had been captured in Syria and was now in US custody. Ackerman followed up on September 20, when “leading national security lawyers” told him that the case of the man, who was being held by the US military as an “enemy combatant,” after surrendering to US-allied Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Syria around September 12, “could spark a far-reaching legal challenge that could have a catastrophic effect on the entire war against ISIS.”

At the time, neither the Defense Department nor the Justice Department would discuss what would happen to the unnamed individual, although, as Ackerman noted, “Should the Justice Department ultimately take custody of the American and charge him with a terrorism-related crime, further legal controversy is unlikely, at least beyond the specifics of his case.” However, if Donald Trump wanted to send him to Guantánamo (as he has claimed he wants to be able to do), that would be a different matter.

A Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Ben Sakrisson, told Ackerman that, according to George W. Bush’s executive order about “war on terror” detentions, issued on November 13, 2001, and authorizing the establishment of military commissions, “United States citizens are excluded from being tried by Military Commissions, but nothing in that document prohibits detaining US citizens who have been identified as unlawful enemy combatants.” Read the rest of this entry »

My Band The Four Fathers Release ‘Equal Rights And Justice For All,’ Defending Habeas Corpus, Opposing Arbitrary Detention at Guantánamo and in the UK

The cover for The Four Fathers' new online single, 'Equal Rights And Justice For All.'My band The Four Fathers have just released a brand-new online single, ‘Equal Rights And Justice For All,’ a passionate defence of habeas corpus, which is supposed to protect all of us from arbitrary imprisonment.

The song — an insistent and infectious roots reggae groove — was inspired by my work trying to get the prison at Guantánamo Bay closed down, my work opposing the use of secret evidence in the UK, and also by the 800th anniversary of King John signing Magna Carta in 2015. The key element of this document, which the barons obliged him to sign, was habeas corpus, the right to be bought before a judge to test the validity of one’s imprisonment, which, over the centuries that followed, ended up applying to everyone, and was successfully exported around the world as a hugely significant bulwark against tyranny.

See below for the song, on Bandcamp, where you can listen to it for free — or, if you’d like to support us, buy it as a download for just £1 ($1.25) — or more if you’d like. Read the rest of this entry »

14 Years On, US Court Rules that Iraqis Tortured at Abu Ghraib Can Sue US Contractor

Al-Jazeera journalist Salah al-Ejaili, in a screenshot from an appearance on Democracy Now!Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Great news from the District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, where three survivors of torture at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by employees of a private military contractor, CACI Premier Technology, have finally been told that their case can proceed, 14 years since they were initially held, and over nine years since the case was first filed.

It is now so long since the torture took place that younger readers may be unaware of Abu Ghraib, the prison in Iraq where photos of abuse first surfaced publicly in April 2004, shocking Americans in a way that nothing had previously despite there being such a wide array of brutal, counter-productive policies undertaken in the wake of the 9/11 attacks — from Afghanistan to Iraq, and from “black sites” and proxy torture prisons to Guantánamo. As they say — and this is a sad truth for a writer to acknowledge — a picture is worth a thousand words.

The three men are Suhail Najim Abdullah Al Shimari, Asa’ad Hamza Hanfoosh Zuba’e and Salah Hasan Nusaif Al-Ejaili, and their lawyers at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) stated in a press release after the ruling that the men, “formerly detained at the infamous ‘hard site’ at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were subjected to treatment that could constitute torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” according to the judge who allowed the case to proceed, Judge Leonie Brinkema. Read the rest of this entry »

Donald Trump Is Still Trying to Work Out How to Expand the Use of Guantánamo Rather Than Closing It for Good

Opponents of Guantanamo urge Donald Trump to close the prison in a poster campaign rugby the Close Guantanamo campaign, which began on the day of his inauguration.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

In a dispiriting sign of counter-productive obstinacy on the part of the Trump administration, the New York Times recently reported that, according to Trump administration officials who are “familiar with internal deliberations,” the administration is “making a fresh attempt at drafting an executive order on handling terrorism detainees.” As Charlie Savage and Adam Goldman described it, these efforts “reviv[e] a struggle to navigate legal and geopolitical obstacles” to expand the use of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, which opened over 15 and a half years ago.

Drafts of proposed executive orders relating to Guantánamo had been leaked in Trump’s first week in office, although, as the Times noted, “Congress and military and intelligence officials pushed back against ideas in early drafts, like reopening the CIA’s overseas ‘black site’ prisons where the Bush administration tortured terrorism suspects.” As a result, the White House “dropped that and several other ideas, but as the drafts were watered down, momentum to finish the job faltered.”

Alarmingly, however, Savage and Goldman noted that the Trump administration officials they spoke to told them that Trump “had been expected to sign a detention policy order three weeks ago,” and that the plan only “changed after he fired his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, on July 28 and replaced him with John F. Kelly,” a retired Marine Corps general who was the commander of US Southern Command, which oversees prison operations at Guantánamo, from November 2012 to January 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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