Not content with having the largest domestic prison population in the world, both in numbers and as a percentage of the total population, the US also imports prisoners from other countries, at vast expense.
Last week, five men were extradited to the US from the UK to face charges relating to their alleged involvement with terrorism. The men’s extradition was supposed to have been made into a straightforward matter by the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who, in 2003, approved the US-UK Extradition Treaty, which purportedly allows prisoners to be extradited without the need for any evidence to be provided.
However, there have been sustained legal challenges to the treaty, with the result that, of the five men extradited last week, two British nationals, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, had been held without charge or trial in the UK for eight and six years respectively, and two foreign nationals, Adel Abdel Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz, had been held without charge or trial since 1998, as their lawyers tried to prevent their extradition. The fifth man, Abu Hamza al-Masri, was the only one to have been imprisoned in the UK after a trial. Convicted in 2006, he was given a seven-year sentence. Read the rest of this entry »
Last Monday, the long struggle of five alleged “terror suspects” against their extradition to the US — under the much-criticised US-UK Extradition Treaty of 2003 — was struck an apparently fatal blow when the European Court of Human Rights refused to hear an appeal they had submitted after the Court first approved their extradition in April. The five men are Babar Ahmad, Syed Talha Ahsan, Mustafa Kamel Mustafa (better known as Abu Hamza al-Masri), Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdel Bary.
The decision is a blow to human rights defenders, who rightly believe that conditions in US Supermax prisons, where the men would end up, constitute torture, and that they have no chance of receiving a fair trial, as almost all trials involving Muslims accused of terrorism, or providing support to terrorism, end in convictions. It also ignores criticism of the treaty by British MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee, who, in March, criticised the Home Office for “failing to publish the evidence” that lay behind a review of the treaty, undertaken by Sir Scott Baker for the home secretary Teresa May, which, as the Independent put it, found that “it was balanced and there was no basis to see it as ‘unfair or oppressive.’” In contrast, the committee said it had “‘serious misgivings’ about some aspects of the US-UK arrangements and recommended the Government renegotiate the treaty.”
In response to the ruling, two of the men, Abu Hamza and Khaled al-Fawwaz, have launched immediate legal challenges, and in the cases of two others, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, a businessman, Karl Watkin, has launched a private prosecution to try to prevent their extradition, arguing that they should be tried in the UK because their alleged crime — hosting a pro-jihad website — took place in Britain. The US government argues that it has the right to try the two men, because one of the servers was located in the US. Read the rest of this entry »
On Friday, as part of a court case, the Justice Department released the names of 55 of the 86 prisoners cleared for release from Guantánamo in 2009 by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, which consisted of officials from key government departments and the intelligence agencies. The Task Force’s final report was issued in January 2010.
Until now, the government has always refused to release the names, hindering efforts by the prisoners’ lawyers — and other interested parties — to publicize their plight.
The rationale for this was explained by Ambassador Daniel Fried, the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Closure of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility, in June 2009, when he stated that “indiscriminate public disclosure of the decisions resulting from reviews by Guantánamo Review Task Force will impair the US Government’s ability effectively to repatriate and resettle Guantánamo detainees” under the executive order establishing a review of the prisoners’ cases, which was issued on President Obama’s second day in office in January 2009, at the same time that he promised to close Guantánamo within a year. Read the rest of this entry »
What is the government doing? Last year, when Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with its contentious passages endorsing the mandatory military detention of terror suspects, there was uproar across the political spectrum from Americans who believed that it would be used on US citizens.
In fact, it was unclear whether or not this was the case. The NDAA was in many ways a follow-up to the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress the week after the 9/11 attacks, which authorized the President “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
As confirmed by the Supreme Court in June 2004, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the NDAA also allowed those seized — who were allegedly involved with al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban — to be held until the end of hostilities. The AUMF was, and remains the basis for the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo, but on two occasions President Bush decided that it applied to US citizens — in the cases of Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, who were held on US soil as “enemy combatants” and subjected to torture. Read the rest of this entry »
I felt sick when I heard the news: that the man who died at Guantánamo last weekend was Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni. I had been aware of his case for six years, and had followed it closely. He had been cleared for release under President Bush (in December 2006) and under President Obama (as a result of the Guantánamo Review Task Force’s deliberations in 2009). He had also had his habeas corpus petition granted in a US court, but, disgracefully, he had not been freed.
Instead of being released, Adnan Latif was failed by all three branches of the US government. President Obama was content to allow him to rot in Guantánamo, having announced a moratorium on releasing any Yemenis from Guantánamo after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian recruited in Yemen, tried and failed to blow up a plane in December 2009. That ban was still in place when Latif died, and had been put in place largely because of pressure from Congress.
Also to blame are the D.C. Circuit Court and the Supreme Court. Latif had his habeas corpus petition granted in July 2010, but then the D.C. Circuit Court moved the goalposts, ordering the lower court judges to give the government’s alleged evidence — however obviously inadequate — the presumption of accuracy. Latif’s case came before the D.C. Circuit Court in October 2011, when two of the three judges — Judges Janice Rogers Brown and Karen LeCraft Henderson — reversed his successful habeas petition, and only Judge David Tatel dissented, noting that there was no reason for his colleagues to assume that the government’s intelligence report about Latif, made at the time of his capture, was accurate, as it was “produced in the fog of war, by a clandestine method that we know almost nothing about.” In addition, Judge Tatel noted that it was “hard to see what is left of the Supreme Court’s command,” in 2008′s Boumediene v. Bush ruling, granting the prisoners constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights, that the habeas review process be “meaningful.” Read the rest of this entry »
Note: This image was produced by Amnesty International as part of their letter-writing campaign for this December, featuring Adnan Latif (on the left), a Yemeni prisoner who died at Guantánamo last weekend, and Hussein Almerfedi, another Yemeni who, like Latif, won his habeas corpus petition, but then had it reversed by the malignant rightwing ideologues of the D.C. Circuit Court. Amnesty made the image available to Latif’s attorneys, so please feel free to circulate it widely.
The news cycle is such that we are all trapped like hamsters on a fast-moving wheel, and even when something terrible happens, the media tends to move on after a couple of days — even when that terrible event is the death of a man at Guantánamo who had mental health problems, who was cleared for release in 2006 by a military review board under George W. Bush, and in 2009 by Barack Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and who had his habeas corpus petition granted by a federal judge in July 2010.
Instead of being released, Latif had his successful habeas petition thrown out by the D.C. Circuit Court last October, not on any factual basis, but because of the application of a twisted ideology, and in June this year the Supreme Court also failed him, refusing to get involved when he — and six others — appealed for them to restore justice to the habeas process. Read the rest of this entry »
This article was published simultaneously here, and on the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January with 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.
Over the weekend, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni, became the ninth prisoner to die in Guantánamo. Adnan had been repeatedly cleared for release — under President Bush and President Obama, and by a US court — but had never been freed, like so many others in that disgraceful prison, which remains an insult to the rule of law ten years and eight months since it first opened.
Adnan was one of the prisoners profiled in the major report I wrote in June, Guantánamo Scandal: The 40 Prisoners Still Held But Cleared for Release At Least Five Years Ago, and the overturning of his successful habeas corpus petition by politically motivated judges in the D.C. Circuit Court in October last year — and the refusal of the Supreme Court to rebuke the court, just three months ago — was notorious amongst attorneys for the prisoners and those interested in justice and the law, even though — sadly and shockingly — it had not awakened appropriate outrage in the mainstream media.
Last May, when the eighth prisoner died at Guantánamo — a man named Hajji Nassim, known to the US authorities as Inayatullah, who had serious mental health problems — I wrote an article entitled, The Only Way Out of Guantánamo Is In a Coffin, which was horribly accurate, as the last two prisoners to leave Guantánamo had left in coffins. The other, Awal Gul, had died in February. Read the rest of this entry »
Friday was the start of the holy month of Ramadan, and it seems to me that, for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, there is no better time to send a message of support to the remaining 168 prisoners in America’s reviled prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
This is a campaign initiated two years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and repeated every six months (see here, here, here and here), but it is depressing to note that just eleven prisoners have left Guantánamo alive in the last two years, and two others left in coffins.
The men still held at Guantánamo have been failed by President Obama, who promised to close the prison within a year of taking office in January 2009, and then resoundingly failed to do so. Compounding this failure, President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, comprising career officials, lawyers and experts from all the relevant government departments and from the intelligence agencies, who analyzed the prisoners’ cases throughout 2009, concluded that 87 of the remaining 168 prisoners should be released, although they are still held. Read the rest of this entry »
Note: Please feel free to visit the website of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, which I founded in January with the attorney Tom Wilner, and please join us to receive updates — just an email address required.
On Monday, in an editorial entitled, “Close Guantánamo,” which, I am pleased to note, drew on my recent report, Guantánamo Scandal: The 40 Prisoners Still Held But Cleared for Release At Least Five Years Ago, the Saudi Gazette called for President Obama to honor his promise to close Guantánamo, which, of course, he made on his second day in office in January 2009, issuing an executive order promising that the prison would be closed within a year. As the editors urged, “This is no time for Obama to be indecisive. He still has six months in office and can right a wrong and set out to close Guantánamo which he pledged to do even before he became president.”
The Saudi Gazette also took unerring aim at the recent decision by the Supreme Court not to accept appeals by seven prisoners whose cases had been dismissed by politically motivated judges in the court of appeals in Washington D.C., which I wrote about here and here (and discussed on TV here and here). The judges, led by Judge A. Raymond Randolph, who supported every piece of Guantánamo-related legislation under George W. Bush that was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court, have been rewriting the rules governing the prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions to such an alarming extent that judges are now obliged to believe any dubious submission put forward as evidence by the government unless it can specifically be refuted, and, as a result, no prisoner has had his petition granted since July 2010.
The Saudi Gazette also claimed that defense secretary Robert Gates had “asked Obama to keep a little more than 100 detainees in indefinite detention … because they constituted an immediate danger to the security of the US but could not be put on trial” — a statement that requires some additional observations, and some corrections. The advice almost certainly came not from Gates but from the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama to review the cases of all the prisoners, whose final report recommended that 84 prisoners should either be tried or held indefinitely. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, the bad news from the Supreme Court was not just manifested in the court’s decision to abdicate its responsibilities towards the prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, by turning down appeals submitted by seven of the 169 men still held, although that was a dreadful decision, establishing, as it did, that the D.C. Circuit Court could continue in its mission to extinguish the habeas corpus rights that had been granted to the prisoners by the Supreme Court in June 2008.
However, it was also accompanied by a refusal to consider an appeal by Jose Padilla, the US citizen held as an “enemy combatant” in a military brig on the US mainland for three and half years from June 2002 to November 2005, and tortured, particularly through the use of prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation.
On May 2, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in California, reversed a lower court decision (PDF) allowing Padilla to pursue a lawsuit against John Yoo, the Justice Department lawyer who wrote the notorious “torture memos,” in which he cynically attempted to redefine torture so that it could be used by the CIA. Padilla — and his mother, Estela Lebron — sought to hold Yoo “liable for damages they allege they suffered” during his “unlawful” detention, which was “in violation of his constitutional and statutory rights,” but the court disagreed. As Scott Horton explained for Harper’s Magazine: Read the rest of this entry »
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: