Thursday, August 27, 2015

By any other name... it is still torture

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou speaks out again on the torture conducted by the CIA of its prisoners:

It’s plain and simple: The CIA tortured its prisoners. They can call it anything they want. It’s still torture. 
And that's a crime against humanity.

Read the rest here.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The President isn't even trying to move the cleared for release men out of Guantanamo.....

According to Secretary of defense Carter, "there has been no pressure from the White House to transfer detainees at a faster rate, Carter said. "I see it exactly as the president does," he said.

Read the rest here.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Meanwhile in science 'military style'.... the Navy claims asbestos is safe.

I reported last month about the cancer cluster at the base by attorneys and staff working on the military commission cases. The Navy now admits that there are carcinogens at the commission site but no one should worry.

 "A public health team found evidence of carcinogens at the war crimes court compound at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but has concluded so far that the buildings are safe for occupancy, the Navy said Friday."

I am guessing those stricken with cancer and other serious illnesses do not agree.

Read the rest here and here.

But maybe this is an underlying reason for the judge once again continuing the hearings for those being tried in the commission.... 

and excelerated efforts to find new lodgings for the men. Read more here, here and here.

Obama claims he wants to close the place....

He just doesn't want to release the men that his administration has already cleared for release... and he is afraid to say it in a public filing.

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Friday submitted a sealed document [The Guardian report] in opposition to the habeas corpus petition of Tariq Ba Odah, despite a 2009 government security review that cleared Ba Odah for transfer. In a public disclosure, the US government reported it "remains committed to promptly securing an appropriate location to which petitioner Ba Odah can be transferred." Ba Odah is represented by Omar Farah of the Center for Constitutional Rights[official website; case backgrounder]. After the government's filing, Farah announced [WSJ report] that he was disappointed by the inconsistencies between the original plan to close Guantanamo and the government's execution of that plan. In June, Ba Odah submitted doctor's statements into court records which argue Odah's medical condition has reached the point of irreparable harm. Amnesty International (AI) [official website] filed a statement [press release] on the Ba Odah Habeas case, reporting on the prisoner's 'concerning' medical condition and his ongoing hunger strike.

READ THE REST HERE...and Here.

Monday, August 10, 2015

From Roger Fitch and our friends down under at Justinian.

The US has long seized and interned combatants whom they categorise as "unprivileged", although the Article 5 (prisoner status) hearings they are entitled to under the Geneva Conventions and US law have never been held. 
A few of those who dared oppose US soldiers and military operations overseas are now being brought to the US for civil trials. 
Irek Hamidullin is a Russian convert to Islam picked up in the Afghan war and brought to the US for trial in a Virginia federal court on sundry war-related charges – labelled "terrorism" - on the basis that he had been "fighting with the Taliban" – assuming, with George Bush, that Taliban fighters can't be privileged belligerents.  
The judge expressed scepticism but allowed the case to proceed. Coverage of the trial has been spotty
It may indeed be lawful for the US to prosecute military opponents in civil courts using US domestic laws, by classifying them as unprivileged and charging them with terrorism.
As previously noted (see post of Sept 2010) the authoritative Conduct of Hostilities Under the Law of Armed Conflict (2004) provides that: 
"With unlawful combatants, [the law of armed conflict] refrains from stigmatizing the acts as criminal.  It merely takes off a mantle of immunity from the defendant, who is thereby accessible to penal charges for any offense committed against the domestic legal system."
You'd think that would be the domestic legal system of the country where the war is occurring, e.g. Afghanistan prosecuting personal crimes such as murder and looting committed under cover of war, but according to the ICRC: 
"If civilians directly engage in hostilities, they are considered 'unlawful' or 'unprivileged' combatants or belligerents ... [and] ... may be prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action." 
Knowledgeable academics like Just Security's Steve Vladeck seem comfortable with the idea of US civil prosecutions for foreign battlefield actions, evidently on the assumption that the Taliban don't qualify as lawful, privileged belligerents and are thus "terrorists". 
If Hamidullin is meant to be indicative of foreign fighters who have opposed Americans, he seems an odd choice, as he didn't actually harm anyone. As his lawyer pointed out, the case was not about suicide bombings or attacking civilians, and was "the very first case of its kind". 
In fact, the US has already obtained a domestic conviction against a foreign combatant for opposing US troops on a battlefield overseas. More here on the conviction of Saddiq Al-Abbadi, achieved through a guilty plea.
The NY Times comments on the strange new trend of prosecuting foreigners in American courts for crimes - if such they be - that occurred outside the US, including many that have little or no connection to the US.
In a British case similar to Hamidullin's, and based on unprivileged combat, a UK resident, Anis Sardar, was convicted of murder for making a roadside bomb that killed a US soldier in Iraq.   
What if Sardar had been a lawful combatant? In today's warfare, is the use of a hidden roadside bomb a war crime? Does it involve treachery or an unlawful weapon?
It's being treated as a war crime in the latest Guantánamo prosecution, that of Abd al Hadi. If so, it would be - along with his alleged attacks on civilians - among the first valid war offences charged at Gitmo. 
Legal academics are meanwhile debating what to do with the Pentagon's unprivileged belligerents - those CIA operatives, who drone-kill military and non-military targets alike, assisted by mercenaries, sorry, contractors, who could also become unprivileged belligerents, but, like the CIA, receive little oversight
What could possibly go wrong?
READ THE REST HERE

Funny thing.... I thought the President was the Commander in Chief

But I guess not.

Read more here.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The ongoing battle between the so-called Justice department and the Department of Defense

A lawyer for the detainee, a Yemeni named Tariq Ba Odah, has asked a federal judge to order his release because of his “severe physical and psychological deterioration.” On Friday, for the third time, the Justice Department asked a judge to extend its deadline to respond, saying the administration needed another week “to further consider internally its response to petitioner’s motion.”
Behind the scenes, according to the officials, the petition has set off an interagency debate. State Department officials say that the government should not oppose his release, citing his medical condition and the incongruity of sending diplomats to ask other countries to take in such detainees even as the Justice Department fights in court to prolong their detention.
READ THE WHOLE STORY HERE.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A few words from the "Close Guantanamo Team"

Prisoner Reviews - and 800 Days of the Gitmo Clock

Dear friends and supporters,

We're sorry to report that progress towards the closure of Guantánamo remains painfully slow. Of the 116 men still held at the prison, 52 have been approved for release, but are still held because of a lack of urgency of the part of the administration, and, in many cases, because third countries must be found that will offer them new homes. Most of the 52 are Yemenis, and the entire U.S. establishment is unwilling to repatriate Yemenis because of the security situation in their homeland.

However, we have been hearing since April that a Mauritanian and a Moroccan could be released soon, and, in addition, we remain appalled that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, has not been freed despite calls for his release from Prime Minister David Cameron, from the government and the House of Commons, which supported a motion calling for his release in March, from MPs in the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, who visited Washington D.C. in May, and from the many prominent figures who have stood with the giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer that is at the heart of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, launched by "Close Guantánamo" co-founder Andy Worthington, with activist Joanne MacInnes, last November.

One way out of Guantánamo is through Periodic Review Boards, established in 2013 to review the cases of all the prisoners not facing trials, and not already approved for release by the Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established in 2009 to review all the prisoners' cases. 17 PRBs have now taken place, with ten men approved for release, and two of those ten have subsequently been freed. Last week, Andy wrote about the 16th prisoners to face a PRB, Salman Rabei'i, a Yemeni, in an article entitled, "16th Guantánamo Prisoner Seeks Release Via Periodic Review Board."

This week the last Kuwaiti in Guantánamo, Fayiz al-Kandari, had a second PRB after the board approved his ongoing imprisonment last year. Andy wrote about that decision here, and for a report on Fayiz's second PRB we recommend Jenifer Fenton's article for Al-Jazeera, "Last Kuwaiti in Guantanamo seeks to return home."

Further PRBs will be taking place in August, as can be seen on the PRB website.

800 days of the Gitmo Clock

Tomorrow, July 31, also marks 800 days since President Obama's promise to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, after a three-year period in which releases had almost ground to a halt because of Congressional obstruction, and the president's unwillingness to expend political capital overcoming those obstacles. The spur for the promise was widespread shock at a prison-wide hunger strike, launched by men who, rightly, feared that they would never be released or granted anything resembling justice, and the promise was made in a major speech on national security in the National Archives on May 23, 2013.

In the summer of 2013, "Close Guantánamo" launched the Gitmo Clock to mark the time since that promise, and the number of prisoners released. We are pleased to note the 50 men released since that promise, but, as mentioned above, the continuing imprisonment of 52 others is a disgrace.

Please visit, like, share and tweet the Gitmo Clock if, like us, you want to see action soon to release the 52 men who, for the most part, have been awaiting release since 2009. It is bad enough that Guantánamo is still open, without men being held who were told six years ago that the U.S. no longer wanted to hold them.

With thanks, as ever, for your support.

The "Close Guantánamo" team

P.S. Please, if you will, also ask your friends and family to 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. Please also note that we can be found on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

WAR IS OVER.... IF YOU WANT IT.

Apparently Obama does not want it.... while declaring the war over on one side of his mouth on the other side of his mouth he declares the war is not over and therefore the prisoners of war cannot be released.
This is the continued saga of a president who says one thing in press releases and quite another in litigation.
Today Judge Lamberth (you might recall him from the notorious statement he made several years ago where he declared publicly that he did not think he could release any of the Guantanamo detainees because hell- "How confident can I be that if I make the wrong choice that he won't be the one that blows up the Washington Monument or the Capitol?"  I filed a motion to recuse Judge Lamberth from hearing my clients case on that basis...and he did in fact recuse himself.) decided that the president really did not mean it when he said the war was over and therefore the detainees cannot be released on the basis that the war is over. In other words.... Obama lied when he said the war was over.
I will link to the opinion soon....

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Death at Guantanamo.....

I reported on the untimely death of William Kuebler last week.  Kuebler died from a very agressive form of cancer. What I did not mention last week was the number of other attorneys and staff involved in the military commissions who have developed cancer and other serious illnesses. I was waiting until the letter from us (the habeas attorneys) to be sent to the Department of Defense (DOD) expressing our concern and demanding a full independent investigation. Since the news is out before our letter went out let me share some of the concerns and coverage. First, it seems that the DOD has been aware of the possible cancer cluster for quite some time-- the location of the commission is at the site of an abandoned airstrip where the military buried jet fuel and the initial building that was used for the commission was long abandoned before the military commissions got started- raising the concern that asbestos might have been used in the construction. But no worries because the DOD is "looking into it...."--I will just remind everyone that it was not until last month that the DOD finally admitted that there is a connection between agent orange and the health problems of our vietnam vets. Anyway, three have died of rare and agressive cancers and by our count about 20 are or have been seriously ill- this includes attorneys on both sides and other staff.
Carol Rosenberg has more here.
Read more here and here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Meanwhile.....

I reported several times on this blog about the nurse at Guantanamo who refused to force feed hunger strikers. The nurse was recently awarded an "ethics" award by the American Nurses Association but not to be outdone the Pentagon is now considering revoking the nurse's security clearance.

Read more here.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

From Roger Fitch and our Friends Down Under.... at Justinian.

DC Circuit panel recently ruled that conspiracy and other US-invented offences are not, in fact, war crimes, after the Al Bahlul military commission case was remanded by the circuiten banc
FindLaw aptly headlined "Military Tribunals Can't Try Terrorists for Civil Crimes", butWashington Legal Foundation's director wrote, "Appeals Court Confounds Military Justice by Importing Foreign Law into the US Constitution", ignoring the constitution's specific reference to the "law of nations" when setting out Congress's power in Art I, sec. 8. 
Steve Vladeck comments here and here.
The NY Times praised the decision.

READ THE REST HERE.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

RIP William Kuebler

William Kuebler was one of the attorneys representing men at Guantanamo- he was military counsel for child detainee Khadr and also for al-Sharbi. He was a lieutenant in the Navy who was assigned to represent these men and there was no attorney more dedicated to his clients than Kuebler. Read more about him here. I am glad he lived to see Khadr released-- even though Khadr is still out on bond and not really free....
I will post his obit when it becomes available.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No one wants to be the commander at Gitmo!

Last week the Navy named the 15th commander for Guantanamo. This week they have named the 16th. Maybe it is like that old saying "no one wants to be the last to die for a mistake...."
read more here.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Could it be that the torture doctors will be prosecuted?

I doubt it but that is the current rumor. Read more here.

And here.