Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New on HuffPo:

Candace has a new piece in Huffington Post, Camp 6: The Worst of the Worst. In it she describes her meeting with Al-Ghizzawi in Camp 6, Guantánamo's newest and cruelest prison facility:

The windowless six-by-six closet-size room had two chairs and a table. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was stooping low to the floor and huddled against the wall when I entered. His arms were wrapped around his body as he tried to warm himself from the chill he has had for over two months, and his feet were shackled to the floor. He was shivering, his teeth were clenched and he wouldn't look at me.

He told me that I was his guest so he did not want to insult me by not visiting with me, but that he was feeling very ill and he was ashamed to have me see him in orange. You see, the orange jumpsuits are worn by prisoners who are being punished. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi explained to me that when he went to take a shower two days earlier he had toilet paper in his pocket. It is forbidden for the prisoners to have anything in their pocket when they go for showers. That landed Mr. Al-Ghizzawi two days in the orange jumpsuit. It made him feel like a criminal.

Close Guantanamo Now!

Amnesty's Make Some Noise campaign has received many homemade videos calling for the closing of the Guantánamo Bay camps. The above video is a "mash up" of various submissions.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Candace on Recent Emails from the DoJ:

Although there was no reporting of this particular event, the Justice Department emailed some of the habeas counsel this past week to tell them whether or not their client(s) had been "cleared" for release or transfer pursuant to the Administrative Review Board (ARB) process. This is the first time the government has done this.

The most disgusting part of the email (well, actually there were two parts that were pretty disgusting but I guess one of those falls in the "petty" department)was that the government admitted in its email that some of the individuals have been cleared for more than two years (prior to the ARB process being set up)… Obviously if those lawyers had known that there clients had been given the "all clear" sign, they could have used that information to try to get their clients sent home or to some third country.

That brings us to the petty part: the government claimed that they were sending out the emails so that the attorneys whose clients were cleared would not have to submit materials for this years ARB procedure. Submissions for this years ARB were due no later that February 23 rd, 2007. The emails started going out long after business hours on February 22nd.

-H. Candace Gorman

A Digest:

  • Today's NY Times has a strong editorial praising the Canadian Supreme Court's decision striking down a law that allowed the Canadian government to indefinately detain terrorism suspects without charge.

  • Yesterday, Human Rights Watch released a report that listed dozens of individuals who have been detained by the United States but whose whereabouts are currently unknown. HRW calls on the Bush administration to "provide a full accounting" for the fate of these persons. (UPI)

  • The Guardian reports that a collection of poetry written by Guantánamo inmates will be published in August by the University of Iowa Press.

  • David Hick's Australian attorney's sue Prime Minister Howard's government.

  • From earlier this month, a former Guantánamo guard rekindles a friendship with Moazzam Begg, ex-inmate, author and spokesman for Caged Prisoners.

Monday, February 26, 2007

CCR on the Al-Odah Decision

Last week, the D.C. Circuit disappointed us with it's terrible 2-1 decision in the combined Al-Odah v. USA and Boumediene v. Bush. Our Friends at CCR issued an excellent press release on the ruling.

NEW YORK - February 20 - The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which represents many of the Guantanamo detainees and coordinates the efforts of hundreds of pro bono attorneys across the country, condemned today's two-to-one decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the combined cases of Al Odah v. USA and Boumediene v. Bush, the first lawsuits challenging the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) to be addressed by the courts. Todays ruling states that the Guantanamo detainees have no constitutional right to habeas corpus, therefore the passage of the MCA by Congress eliminated the statutory right to challenge their detention in the courts.

The MCA, which was signed into law by President Bush on October 17, 2006, is the second attempt by the Bush administration to strip detainees of their statutory right to challenge their detention in the courts, a right that the Supreme Court has already affirmed twice, in CCR's landmark case Rasul v. Bush in 2004 and in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in 2006. The act also allows for evidence obtained through torture, - a violation of the Geneva Conventions - and greatly widens the scope of who the president can label an "enemy combatant."

"This decision empowers the President to do whatever he wishes to prisoners without any legal limitation as long as he does it off shore, and encourages such notorious practices as extraordinary rendition and a contempt for international human rights law," said Shayana Kadidal, managing attorney of the Center for Constitutional Rights Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative. "The matter will ultimately have to be resolved by the Supreme Court for a third time."

Al Odah v. USA consists of the first eleven habeas petitions filed after the landmark Supreme Court decision in Rasul v. Bush. The Boumediene appeal, filed jointly by CCR and cooperating counsel Wilmer, Pickering, Cutler, Hale, & Dorr and Clifford Chance, is on behalf of six Bosnian humanitarian workers seized by the U.S. military in Bosnia after the Bosnian courts ordered local authorities to release them. In Al Odah, D.C. District Court Judge Joyce Hens Green stated that detainees possess "the fundamental right to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment." Reaching an entirely different conclusion,
Judge Richard Leon dismissed the Boumediene appeals, ruling that the detainees possess no constitutional rights to habeas corpus. Both cases were appealed, and the two cases were consolidated for oral arguments before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which were heard in November 2006.

"We call on the legal profession and all Americans concerned about the loss of liberty undertaken by the Bush Administration and now rubber stamped by the Court of Appeals to join with us in taking this fight to the United States Supreme Court. We call on Congress to take up the fight that the American people sent you to Washington to wage, to quickly enact legislation that will begin the process of restoring our most fundamental rights," said CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman.

"Habeas corpus is a right that was enshrined in the Magna Carta to prevent kings from indefinitely and arbitrarily detaining anyone they chose-the combined actions of the Bush Administration, the previous Congress and two of the three judges today have taken us back 900 years and granted the right of kings to the president," said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Candace Returns to the Airwaves

This coming Saturday at 5:00 pm ET, 4:00 pm CT, Candace will be interviewed by Mike Feder on Sirius Satellite Radio. Tune in!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Candace Speaks to the Campus

Last Thursday, while Candace was meeting with her clients in Guantánamo, students at Columbia College Chicago protested the Bush administration's foreign policy in Iraq and beyond. Candace sent this written statement of support for the students:

Greetings from Guantánamo.

As you are sitting here today I am spending the day in a tiny room with one of my two clients. Depending on which client I am visiting today I will either be soaking wet from the intense heat or freezing cold from the air conditioning turned on high. Tomorrow I will leave this hellhole but my unfortunate clients will remain. It is on behalf of my two clients, and the other inmates languishing at Guantánamo without any charges filed against them and no end in sight, that I would like to thank you for taking a stand today against the illegal and immoral policies of the Bush administration.

If I am meeting with Mr. Al-Ghizzawi today I can tell you a lot about the man that was wrongly picked up for a bounty… and I will tell you a little about him in a minute. However, if I am meeting with Mr. Razak Ali, I can tell you next to nothing about the man…. And here is why… I agreed to represent Mr. Ali in the spring, after I was already representing Mr. Al-Ghizzawi for almost six months… I figured what the hell; I am already going down to Guantánamo so why not see two clients instead of one….

However, the government has fought giving me any information about Mr. Ali…They did the same with my other client but eventually Mr. Al-Ghizzawi’s judge ordered the government to give me whatever information that had on Mr. Al-Ghizzawi. Unfortunately the Judge in Mr. Ali’s case has not entered a similar order. Last week I filed an emergency motion with the Appellate court asking them to allow me to see information about Mr. Ali before my trip this week, but on Friday at 4:00 the court finally answered…. They said they will get to my request some other time. So I went again to visit my client not having a clue as to what our government thinks he has done…

But let me tell you briefly about my other client Mr. Al-Ghizzawi. There was a good reason why the government fought giving me any information about him. You see Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was picked up in return for a bounty after we dropped thousands upon thousands of leaflets over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and who knows where else. Our government promised people that we would give them wealth beyond their dreams if they turned over murderers and terrorists… Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was a Libyan living in Afghanistan. He had a small shop and was married to an Afghani woman with a new-born daughter at the time the US started bombing Afghanistan. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi took his wife and young daughter out of the city and to his in-laws to avoid the bombing. It was there at the home of his in-laws that he was turned over for the bounty, the family had no choice when the thugs came to the door. Being a stranger and an Arab was enough for someone to turn Mr. Al-Ghizzawi over and become “wealthier beyond (their) dreams.”

Our own government did not know anything about Mr. Al-Ghizzawi when he was turned over to them.. Eventually more than three years after he was picked up and sent to Guantánamo they did a review of him before a panel of three military people. A review that was stacked against Mr. Al-Ghizzawi by the procedures set up for the prisoners. However even that military panel, in the procedure that was stacked against him determined that Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was not an enemy combatant and that there was no evidence tying him to al-Qaeda, the Taliban or any other terrorist organization. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi’s capture was a mistake, like so many other “mistakes” at Guantánamo.

The first time I met Al-Ghizzawi, in July of last year, Mr. Al-Ghizzawi had already been at Guantánamo more than four years. The first part of his detention was spent in a cage with a strip of concrete around the sand floor. It was open to the elements: be it sun, rain, cold, or the occasional hurricane. The hovel erected by our government to house human beings looked like the animal shelter where we picked out a dog some years back, only our dog had a little covered corner where she could get away from the weather.

Mr. Al-Ghizzawi and the other men were eventually “upgraded” to the facilities that he was living in until this past December. They had walls, a roof, barred windows. and concrete floors. He has no blanket (blankets are not allowed). Instead he has a plastic “thing” to cover himself with. This plastic “thing” is cold when it is cold and hot when it is hot. It is never washed and it stinks.
Mr. Al-Ghizzawi has been held more than five years now. His health is rapidly deteriorating from the effects of untreated hepatitis B and tuberculosis (our government admits that it has known about both of these conditions since he arrived but has not treated him for either condition). His daughter, who was just a few months old when he was turned in for a bounty and whisked off to Guantánamo, will turn six soon. His wife and daughter live on the kindness of family. The bread and spice shop owned and operated by Mr. Al-Ghizzawi and his wife has been long since closed down (she cannot run the shop without him). Our courts and politicians have forsaken Mr. Al-Ghizzawi. The diplomats look the other way. Countries that understand just how awful the US has become refuse to take Guantánamo refugees, not because they are afraid the men are terrorists, but because they don’t want to be seen doing anything to help the US out of this awful mess we made for ourselves. Time will not look favorably to anything our country has done to the men of Guantánamo, but that is a bitter-sweet pill for the men we have caused and continue to cause, to suffer so greatly.

In December Mr. Al-Ghizzawi and approximately 200 others were moved into the new camp 6. Camp 6 is solitary confinement, total isolation. Being placed there has nothing to do with the prisoners’ status or threat level. Many of the individuals placed in camp 6 are scheduled to be released… but now they sit in solitary confinement, in a building that is brutally cold. They have no one to talk to, they have no fresh air, they never see the sun or the sky… and they are slowly going crazy.

When Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was explaining to me his early years at Guantánamo, he told me about a flower that had appeared outside his “cage” in the spring of 2002. Just one little flower poking its beautiful leaves and petals out of the sand. He was describing the flower to me, but I couldn’t quite figure out what kind of flower it was. He called it a primrose and maybe it was. He said to me “I am like that little flower. It didn’t belong there…. I don’t belong here either.”
I ask each of you to do everything in your power to close this place. It means writing to congress and to newspapers. Getting a petition drive. Keeping this disgrace front and center for the American people to see and think about. Bush will not close this place until he is forced to…. We must force him.

On behalf of Mr. Al-Ghizzawi, Mr. Ali, and the other prisoners at Guantánamo, I thank you in advance for whatever help and attention you can bring to their plight.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Goldsmith on Guantánamo

The UK's top lawyer, Her Majesty's Attorney General Peter Goldsmith, expressed his clear disapproval of the Bush admistration's detention policies in his remarks before the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association.

Goldsmith called Guantánamo a "symbol of injustice" and suggested that the prison camp was tarnishing the image of the United States and the West as a whole.

The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg reported on the ABA meeting.

Earlier, the ABA's House of Delegates adopted a resolution of support for the ''courageous lawyers'' who provide free-of-charge services to Guantánamo captives.

A senior Pentagon official in charge of detainee affairs, Charles ''Cully'' Stimson, himself a lawyer, lit a national legal firestorm by making a Jan. 11 broadcast call on corporate America to boycott firms whose lawyers represent Guantánamo captives.

Lawyers across the country protested that so-called pro-bono representation is a bedrock American principle. Stimson, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for attorney affairs, apologized. Then he resigned.

The House of Delegates adopted the resolution by unanimous voice vote after impassioned addresses by three lawyers, among them New York Bar Association President Mark Alcott, who invoked the Pledge of Allegiance.

''It's not justice for some -- not justice for most,'' Alcott said. ``It's justice for all.''

The Pentagon has held men and teens from dozens of countries as ''enemy combatants'' at the remote U.S. Navy base for more than five years. Today they number about 395 -- none currently charged with a crime.

Tony Blair's government has successfully negotiated the release of all the British citizens held earlier at Guantánamo -- after, Goldsmith said, he offered the legal opinion that the United States could not guarantee them fair trials that met international legal standards.

Goldsmith said that British legal officials would ''provide more detail to the U.S. government'' of its concerns about the latest legislation.

He also took a swipe at Stimson's remarks.

''I assure you that remarks of that sort,'' he told the House of Delegates, ``are viewed from across the Atlantic as unjust, unacceptable and un-American.''

Friday, February 9, 2007

Kangaroo Tribunals

The Combatant Status Review Tribunals are the extra-judicial process that the government uses to classify a captured individual is an "enemy combatant." Mark and Joshua Denbeaux's report, No-Hearing Hearings provides a useful introduction to this kangaroo tribunal.

On a few occasions, a Tribunal initially found that the detainee was not/no longer an enemy combatant. In such cases, the detainee was never told of this decision. Instead, the Tribunal’s decision wasreviewed at multiple levels in the Defense Department chain of command and eventually a new Tribunal was convened. However, some detainees were still found not/no longer to be enemy combatants. At least one detainee’s record indicates that after a second Tribunal found him no longer an enemy combatant, the process was repeated and sent back for a third Tribunal which found him to be an enemy combatant.
Our friend, Mr. Al-Ghizzawi, was one those prisoners initially found to have no ties to terrorism classified as a "non enemy combatant." The higher-ups overturned this determination and Mr. Al-Ghizzawi continues to languish in Guantánamo.
- Adrian Bleifuss Prados

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A Lawyer's Journey to Guantánamo

An excellent column by Michael Rapkin appeared in the February 5th issue of the L.A. Daily Journal. Rapkin's client, Yousef Abdullah Al-Rubaish, is a young Saudi who, like so many others, was regularly abused during his unjust imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay. Rapkin does an excellent job at addressing the facts and fictions surrounding the camp and its inmates:

With unclassified government records, I can refute much of the misinformation disseminated by the Bush administration and the military.

For example, American forces captured only 5 percent of the Guantanamo detainees. Only 8 percent of the detainees are deemed to be al-Qaida fighters. Fifty-five percent never committed a hostile act against the United States or its coalition allies; and 85 percent were captured by bounty hunters who were paid money (according to American leaflets) "beyond their wildest dreams."

And these are the government's own records.

Yousef, like most Guantanamo prisoners, was physically and psychologically tortured by our American military - as publicly documented by the FBI and other organizations. He was beaten before meals by guards with batons and helmets wearing metal knee braces and metal gloves, who would forcibly remove him from his cell. They broke bones and forced Yousef into physically stressful positions. They smashed him in the eye while praying and provided sub-standard
medical care. Other Gitmo prisoners sustained worse torture conditions than Yousef.

The torture continues today in Guantanamo. Prisoners suffer prolonged isolation in solitary confinement, exposure to the elements and constant sleep deprivation. One prisoner recently had his daily allotment of 15 sheets of toilet paper confiscated because he used some to cover his eyes in order to sleep.

During his five years in Guantanamo, Yousef never saw his family. I was his only contact with the outside world. When I brought him family pictures his family had sent to me, he could not stop staring at them.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have described the Guantanamo prisoners as the "worst of the worst," but we all know the truth. The government knows most of the prisoners are innocent; only 10 out
of more than 800 have ever been charged. And even those 10 have never had a day in court.

Rapkin also takes on the nefarious Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Bush administration's assault on habeas corpus.

Late last year, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This un-American legislation applies to all non-U.S. citizens or residents, as well as to the Guantanamo detainees. If the president designates someone an "unlawful enemy combatant," he or she loses habeas corpus rights, the single most critical safeguard of individual liberty in our legal system. They lose the right to due process under the law. They lose the right to be told why they have been imprisoned or even what they are accused of having done. They can be held indefinitely in prison for the rest of their lives, with no trial.

The good news is that Yousef was released from Guantanamo last month and has flown home to Saudi Arabia. Like other Saudis who have been transferred from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia, Yousef is being held temporarily in a Saudi jail, but he is being treated well. Based on past Saudi policy, Yousef expects to be released soon to resume his life. And even though the Bush administration ripped five years from the prime of his life and thus far refuses him any compensation, Yousef does not harbor ill feelings towards the United States.

Today, hundreds of prisoners still remain at Guantanamo. Conditions have not improved. There is no due process and currently no habeas rights under the Military Commissions Act. (I protested in front of the White House the day the president signed this legislation). Some detainees are in the new $37 million dollar state-of the-art prison facility known as Camp 6, designed to reduce contact among inmates. The new Congress will be considering two bills which would modify the Military Commissions Act and, among other revisions, restore the centuries old habeas corpus law.

- Adrian Bleifuss Prados

Hat tip to G. Munson for technical support with this post.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

More Bounty Leaflets

The great majority of Guantánamo "detainees" were not captured by U.S. forces. Many were seized by armed groups in the fog of war that engulfed Afghanistan in late 2001. The United States dropped leaflets over that impoverished country promising handsome rewards for enemy fighters. Not surprisingly, this resulted in the capture of countless innocents.

Many of you have seen this widely circulated leaflet:

Here are two more leaflets, one is made to resemble a banknote:

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge. The images are modified from Mark and Joshua Denbeaux's Report on Guantanamo Detainees.

- Adrian Bleifuss Prados

Monday, February 5, 2007

How can you help?


Some of you have offered to contribute funds to support Candace's work. She is moved by your generosity and by your passion for justice. However, Candace pledged to fund the effort herself when she took the case pro bono and she intends to abide by that commitment.

The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York has been the backbone of Guantánamo litigation. It has played a major role in recruiting and training habeas counsel, coordinating strategy and providing resources and guidance. Candace urges citizens and activists angered by the injustice of Guantánamo to support CCR's invaluable work.

In solidarity,

The Guantánamo Blog

New on Huffington Post:

Candace was recently informed that a letter from her Libyan client, Mr. Al-Ghizzawi, had been classified and placed in her "secret drawer" in the government's "secret facility." Candace flew to D.C. last week to read Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's super top-secret missive. Candace recounts the adventure in a new piece on Huffington Post - "John Lennon and Mr. Al-Ghizzawi: Two Peas in a Secret Pod."

The title of the post alludes to recently released documents in John Lennon's FBI file (the documents contained no new or "sensitive" information about the singer/activist). In her latest Huff Po piece, Candace offers these observations on how the government uses and abuses its power to declare things "secret":
I had thought these secret policies were particular to the massive and unconscionable illegalities of the Bush administration, but the episode with Mr. Lennon's FBI file shows, at least to a certain degree, that this is a long standing governmental policy. Professor Wiener referred to it as "excessive government secrecy" in his recent Nation article. Maybe, but it seems more likely that this is our government's way to make it seem, in Lennon's case, like there was something to justify the illegal spying and intrusion into his life, and in Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's case, to justify his illegal imprisonment. It is a policy of covering up illegal activity by declaring it "secret" and thereby making it seem like something sinister is going on that they just cannot tell us about for our own protection

H. Candace Gorman on the Radio

H. Candace Gorman was recently featured on The Story, a radio program produced by North Carolina Public Radio. Check out WUNC's digital archive and listen to the program here.

A Digest of GTMO News:

The AP covers GTMO's newest facility, the maximum security Camp 6. The Article quotes Wells Dixon and Sabin Willett.
The Star covers conditions in Camp 6, with a special focus of the situation of Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr, who was captured at the age of 15.
The family of a Saudi man who had been missing for five years discovers that he had been "disappeared" to Guantánamo Bay.

David Hicks' Australian attorney, David McLeod, calls it like he sees it and accuses the U.S. government of moral "bastardry."

- Adrian Bleifuss Prados