Prisoners tortured in Guantanamo and Bagram


Protest outside parliament in London, England demanding the release of Shaker Aamer from detention in Guantanamo Bay prison

From daily News Line in Britain:

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

TORTURE & FORCE FEEDING IN G-BAY AND BAGRAM PRISON

GLOBAL youth media company ‘Vice’ on Monday launched a week-long special edition of their website Vice.com about Guantanamo Bay, featuring testimony from clients represented by human rights organisation Reprieve.

The special edition includes first-hand testimony from detainees Shaker Aamer, Emad Hassan and Younous Chekkouri, who have been cleared for release from the prison yet remain detained without charge or trial.

It also includes original essay contributions from Jeremy Paxman, Melvyn Bragg, John le Carré and Frederick Forsyth.

British resident Shaker Aamer has been detained in Guantanamo since 2002 despite having been cleared for release under both the Bush and Obama administrations.

The British government has repeatedly stated that Shaker should be returned as a matter of urgency to his British wife and their four children in London.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond recently dismissed concerns over the abuse faced by Shaker in Guantanamo.

Reprieve has undertaken litigation in the US – on behalf of long-time hunger striking client Abu Wa’el Dhiab – challenging the legality of the methods used to force-feed men in Guantanamo Bay.

Video tapes of Dhiab being manhandled to the force-feeding chair – dubbed ‘torture chair’ by the detainees – and force-fed, have been ordered released by a US federal judge.

Cori Crider, Strategic Director of Reprieve and attorney for the men in Guantanamo, said: ‘Guantanamo is a legal black hole and an affront to justice the world over.

‘This special edition of Vice brings much-needed attention to the plight of those men who remain detained without charge or trial.

‘The US administration is currently trying to stop video tapes of force-feedings being released to public scrutiny as part of its continuing efforts to keep transparency far away from Guantanamo.

‘The US must release these tapes – and the prison from which they came must be closed at once.’

Vice.com article, Growing up, Guantanamo says:

Mohammed el Gharani, a citizen of Chad raised in Saudi Arabia, had just turned 15 when he arrived at Guantánamo Bay in February 2002, shepherded off a military cargo plane wearing shackles and blackout goggles.

‘He weighed 126 pounds, was too young to shave, and for months didn’t know where he was. “Some brothers said Europe,” he later recalled in an interview with the London Review of Books.

‘Others thought the unsparing winter sun suggested Brazil. When an interrogator finally told him he was in Cuba, Mohammed didn’t recognise the name. “An island in the middle of the ocean,” the interrogator said. “Nobody can run away from here and you’ll be here forever.”

Omar Khadr, born in Toronto, was also shipped to the offshore prison as a juvenile.

‘The 16-year-old made an early impression on the Army chaplain on base, who, walking by his cell, found Omar curled up asleep, arms wrapped tightly around a Disney book with drawings of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. “He definitely seemed out of place,” the chaplain told reporter Michelle Shephard, who wrote about Omar in her book Guantánamo’s Child?

‘Fahd Ghazy, who grew up in a Yemeni farming village, was seized when he was 17. He had recently graduated at the top of his high-school class.

‘One of Guantánamo’s earliest detainees, he was initially housed in the jerrybuilt, open-air cages of Camp X-Ray. Around the time he was transferred to a permanent cellblock, Fahd learned he’d won a university scholarship to study in Yemen’s capitol, Sana’a.

‘Nearly 13 years later, he’s still at the naval base – still without charge.

‘Swept up as juveniles, Mohammed, Omar, and Fahd were among some 15 to 20 detainees whose adolescence and early adulthood unfolded within the desolate confines of the prison camp, marked by isolation, abusive treatment and the chronic stress of indefinite detention.

‘For years, the Pentagon misreported how many children had been seized. “They don’t come with birth certificates,” a Guantánamo public affairs officer told the New York Times in 2005.

‘To this day, the government considers Fahd to be older than he is, explains his lawyer, Omar Farah of the Centre for Constitutional Rights.

‘While visiting Fahd’s relatives in rural Yemen last year, Farah confirmed the birth date Fahd has consistently maintained, recorded in his family’s Koran.

‘“Because they’re developing, they’re more vulnerable to being traumatised,” says Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a retired brigadier general and child psychiatrist who’s served as a medical expert in several cases at Guantánamo. “They’re detached from their families, they don’t have schooling, and they’re thrown in with adults in this adversarial climate.”

‘International juvenile justice standards identify child soldiers first and foremost as victims in need of representation and rehabilitation.

‘The first prisoner Xenakis evaluated was Omar – deemed high profile because his father had ties to Osama bin Laden – who’d been accused of lobbing a grenade that killed an American medic during a firefight in Afghanistan.

‘Gravely injured in the confrontation, Omar was found under a pile of debris with two bullet holes in his back and shrapnel in his eyes.

‘But Omar was air-evaced to Bagram and interrogated almost immediately – pain relief for his injuries withheld during questioning.

‘Years later, in an interrogation room that doubled as an office for doctor-patient interviews, Omar would say to Xenakis, “I’ll tell you what happened in this room.”

‘He described being used as a “human mop”: after painful stress positions caused him to urinate on the floor, he said, military police poured pine oil on his body and dragged him through the liquid.

“These were kids,” says Xenakis. “They’re threatened and harshly interrogated, they’re frightened. I just didn’t think it was consistent with our values as a country.’

‘Dennis Edney, Omar’s longtime civilian lawyer, recalls his client’s bearing during their first meeting in 2004. “I went into one of those cold, windowless cells,” Edney says, “and saw a young boy chained to the floor, trying to keep himself warm. He was blind in one eye, with paralysis in his right arm. He reminded me of a little broken bird. I recall the absolute shock I felt witnessing this lonely, abject figure.”

‘Plagued by procedural snarls and an ever-changing rulebook, Omar’s military commissions case dragged on for years.

‘Had he gone to trial as scheduled in 2010, he would have been the first child soldier to be prosecuted for war crimes since World War II, “a terrible precedent”, according to Human Rights Watch.

‘Instead, after a military judge ruled admissible his statements obtained under torture, Omar pled guilty to all charges, avoiding further entanglement with a system he’d described before the court as “constructed to convict detainees, not find the truth”.

Now 28 and serving an eight-year sentence in Canada, Omar remains close to Xenakis, who provides ongoing support. “He’s going to have some real challenges when he’s out,” Xenakis says. “How does he recover the skills to communicate and socialise outside the prison setting? How does he act in an environment where he can make his own choices? He’s very conscientious and diligent, but he’s got a lot of ground to make up.”

‘According to Polly Rossdale, who directs the Life After Guantánamo project for the human rights group Reprieve, the most ordinary tasks and desires often strike former detainees as insurmountable and unachievable. “When they get out,” she says, “the main things that men call me up about are, ‘How am I going to find a wife?’ Or they want to go to computer class and get computer skills.” Some have been consumed by panic in the shampoo aisle, while others can’t remember how to put on a seatbelt.

The article reveals that an ex-G-Bay prisoner Mohammed, who finally made it out of Chad in 2011, is married now, his second child born earlier this year.

‘He named the baby Shaker, after Shaker Aamer, a mentor and friend still imprisoned at Guantánamo. “Shaker was one of the men who really looked after Mohammed because he was a young boy,” Rossdale explains. “This is his way of saying thank you.’

‘Of the 779 men imprisoned at Guantánamo, roughly 600 were eventually released without charge. Nevertheless, heavy stigma has burdened former detainees looking for work or community acceptance . . .

‘Eighty-seven of Guantánamo’s remaining 148 detainees are from Yemen, 58 of whom have been cleared for transfer . . .’

Pakistani freed from US torture jail in Afghanistan after ten years


This video from the USA says about itself:

“From the producer of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Who Killed the Electric Car? comes a documentary that takes a critical look at the Bush administration’s policy on torture by investigating the death of an Afghan taxi driver who, after being taken into the custody of American soldiers at Bagram Air Force Base, suffered fatal injuries at the hands of U.S. soldiers. In 2002, American soldiers accused an Afghan taxi driver of taking part in a deadly rocket attack. Five days after being handed over to the U.S. military for questioning, the man was found dead — the victim of a brutal bout of torture and abuse according to the medical examiner who inspected his body. The examiner concluded that the taxi driver’s hands had been bound to the ceiling, forcing him to stand for hours on end as his assailants repeatedly — and relentlessly — kicked him.

Compelled to finally unearth the truth about the mysterious fate of the deceased taxi driver, filmmaker Alex Gibney takes viewers on an illuminating journey from a tiny Afghani village to Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib, and ultimately the White House, to explore why the man who turned up in the morgue wasn’t the only victim to fall prey to the Bush administration’s controversial foreign policy.

By examining the sad fate of the wrongly accused, the toll that the War on Terror has taken on an exhausted United States military, and Justice Department official John Yoo’s internal memo concerning interrogation techniques, the filmmakers behind Taxi to the Dark Side encourage viewers to weigh out the issues for themselves, and never accept what’s told to them on face value. The film won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 80th Annual Academy Awards.”

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Pakistani man captured by British forces in Iraq released from US Bagram prison in Afghanistan after 10-year ordeal

Saturday 17th May 2014

Pakistani citizen Yunus Rahmatullah is released from 10-year detention by the US at Bagram airbase following a transfer from British forces in Iraq which the Supreme Court suggested could be a war crime.

A Pakistani citizen held at Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan for a decade has been released, it was revealed yesterday.

Yunus Rahmatullah was held at the US airbase for 10 years without charge, trial or access to a lawyer after his capture by British forces in Iraq and subsequent rendition to Afghanistan by British forces in 2004.

After years of government denials that Britain had been involved in rendition operations, Mr Rahmatullah’s capture by British forces was finally revealed to Parliament in February 2009 by then-secretary of state for defence John Hutton.

Despite admitting its role in Mr Rahmatullah’s illegal detention and transfer, the government refused to assist him.

As a result legal charity Reprieve and Leigh Day solicitors took action on Mr Rahmatullah’s behalf by legal action.

It was subsequently revealed that British officials were aware of a US intention to transfer Mr Rahmatullah from Iraq to Afghanistan at the time, yet did nothing to prevent it.

The Supreme Court in London suggested in 2012 that his rendition may have amounted to a war crime, stating: “The, presumably forcible, transfer of Mr Rahmatullah from Iraq to Afghanistan is, at least prima facie, a breach of article 49 [of the fourth Geneva Convention]. On that account alone, his continued detention post-transfer is unlawful.”

Mr Rahmatullah is said to be in a grave mental and physical condition as a result of his ordeal.

Reprieve legal director Kat Craig said: “After 10 years of unimaginable abuse and imprisonment at the hands the British and US forces, Yunus Rahmatullah deserves a full investigation into the circumstances of his capture.

“As its pernicious role in the worst abuses of the ‘war on terror’ continues to come to light, the British government must hold its hands up and right the wrongs of the past.”

Leigh Day solicitor Rosa Curling added: “The UK authorities transferred our client in to US custody, when it knew there was a real risk such a transfer would expose him to torture, mistreatment and abuse.

“They failed to take proper steps to try to ensure the US returned him to UK custody. To date, the UK government has refused to undertake such an investigation.”

Today in 2003: New York Times exposes torture of prisoners by US and British soldiers in Basra, Iraq: here.

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British Supreme Court accuses government of war crime


This video is called Extraordinary Rendition [Documentary about War on Terror and Guantanamo Bay / Binyam Mohamed].

From daily News Line in Britain:

Friday, 2 November 2012

UK RENDITION OF PAKISTANI ‘A POSSIBLE WAR CRIME’

The rendition of a Pakistani man by UK and US forces to Afghanistan, and his subsequent detention, has been described by Britain’s highest court as ‘unlawful’ and a possible war crime.

Yunus Rahmatullah, 29, was detained by British forces in Iraq in 2004, and rendered by the US to Bagram prison, Afghanistan, where he remains held without charge or trial to this day.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously dismissed the British government’s appeal to overturn the writ of habeas corpus issued in his case.

The court criticised the UK government for failing, on no less than three occasions, to request Mr Rahmatullah’s return.

It suggested that these failings may amount to a war crime, stating: ‘The, presumably forcible, transfer of Mr Rahmatullah from Iraq to Afghanistan is, at least prima facie, a breach of article 49 (of the Fourth Geneva Convention).

‘On that account alone, his continued detention post-transfer is unlawful.’

The UK government entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US, which said the UK could seek his return if required, to justify his rendition.

The MoU invoked and reinforced the Geneva Conventions which the US has consistently breached when detaining prisoners of the War on Terror.

The Supreme Court therefore held that the British government should have demanded Mr Rahmatullah’s return when they found out he had been unlawfully transferred to Afghanistan, again when the Americans themselves had decided he no longer needed to be detained, and finally again when the war in Iraq ended.

The UK government have sought to argue that, despite the MoU with the US, any attempts to secure Mr Rahmatullah’s release would have been futile.

But the Court said that this argument was ‘unsupported by factual analysis’ and that ‘no evidence was proffered to sustain it’.

The Court identified this as the first time in 150 years when the US (‘a mature democracy’) has ‘dishonoured’ an extradition agreement (para. 14).

The writ of habeas corpus required the UK, as the ‘detaining authority’, to seek Mr Rahmatullah’s release from the United States authorities.

However, the United States failed to act on the writ and it was subsequently discharged.

Efforts to get the writ reinstated were lost in a majority decision in Wednesday’s judgment.

In December 2011, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the Divisional Court and agreed that the historic writ of habeas corpus should and can be issued in the case of Mr Rahmatullah.

British forces seized him in February 2004 during an operation against insurgents in Iraq.

The soldiers handed him over to their US counterparts under the Memorandum of Understanding covering how prisoners would be managed.

He was subsequently illegally rendered to Afghanistan.

Mr Rahmatullah was the subject of an embarrassing climbdown in 2009 by the then Defence Secretary John Hutton who had to admit that the government had previously misled the house when it said that it had not been involved in the US practice of Rendition.

In June 2010, a detention review board authorised his release, saying he posed ‘no enduring security threat’ – but he remains in detention.

Although in US custody, the UK is the ‘detaining authority’ pursuant to the 2003 Memorandum of Understanding struck between the UK and US during the invasion of Iraq and remains responsible for Mr Rahmatullah under the Geneva Conventions.

The ancient writ of habeas corpus is a right under English law that dates back to the Magna Carta.

It may be issued on behalf of any prisoner unlawfully detained so as to bring him (originally, his actual person; now more often just the facts of the case) before the High Court, and his release ordered.

Giving the lead judgment in the Supreme Court, Lord Kerr dismissed the government’s arguments that the 2003 MoU was no longer in force.

He also highlighted the contrary position taken by the government in seeking to down-play the import of the MoU in this case when in other cases it had sought to persuade to the Court to attach great weight to these inter-governmental agreements – notably in extradition cases where it has repeatedly relied upon MoUs to send individuals to countries that routinely use torture.

The Justices also debunked the government’s argument that Mr Rahmatullah was not being detained unlawfully.

‘There can be no plausible argument, therefore, against the proposition that there is clear prima facie evidence that Mr Rahmatullah is unlawfully detained and that the UK government was under an obligation to seek his return unless it could bring about effective measures to correct the breaches of the (Geneva Convention) that his continued detention constituted.’

Importantly, the Supreme Court also dismissed the government’s arguments that the Courts should not have issued the writ because it infringed on the ‘forbidden territory’ of foreign and diplomatic affairs.

In doing so, the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional right of the individual to challenge the lawfulness of their detention through the writ of habeas corpus.

As Lady Hale and Lord Carnwath put it: ‘Where liberty is at stake, it is not the Court’s job to speculate as to the political sensitivities which may be in play.’

Reprieve’s Legal Director Kat Craig said: ‘The UK government has nowhere left to turn.

‘The highest court in the country has expressed serious concerns that grave war crimes may have been committed, as a result of which a police investigation must be initiated without delay.

‘The Court has also found that Yunus Rahmatullah’s detention is unlawful.

‘Mr Ramatullah, who has been imprisoned for over eight years despite being cleared for release by the US itself on the basis that he poses no threat, must now be released immediately.’

Reprieve’s Director Clive Stafford Smith said: ‘This powerful Supreme Court decision has huge ramifications. Clearly there will now have to be a full criminal investigation.

‘But if the US has “dishonoured” its commitment to the UK in this case for the first time in 150 years, and continues to violate law as basic as the Geneva Conventions, this also throws other extradition agreements with the UK into doubt.’

Jamie Beagent, the lawyer at Leigh Day & Co representing Mr Rahmatullah, said: ‘Today’s judgment is a resounding affirmation of the principles of habeas corpus and its importance in defending the liberty of the individual from unbridled executive power.

‘The government’s attempts to row-back on centuries of constitutional development and restrict the reach of habeas corpus has been rejected by the highest Court in the land.

‘Sadly, despite the fact that in international law Mr Rahmatullah remains a British detainee and the United States does not consider him a security threat, our client remains in detention at Bagram.

‘The writ of habeas corpus now upheld by the Supreme Court failed to secure his release as the US failed to act on the writ and it was subsequently discharged.

‘We will be drawing the Supreme Court’s findings to the attention of the Metropolitan Police who are currently investigating our client’s case in relation to offences under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.

‘We call on the government to engage with the US to bring to an end the ongoing breaches of the Geneva Conventions in our client’s case for which they are responsible.’

Reprieve, the legal charity with whose assistance Leigh Day brought this action on Mr Rahmatullah’s behalf, will continue to campaign for his release and return to his family in Pakistan.

Leigh Day will continue to assist in any way it can to finally bring Mr Rahmatullah’s incarceration to an end.

Anti-US occupation demonstration in Afghanistan


This video is called Koran Burning at Bagram Air Base Draws the Ire of Thousands.

Three thousand Afghans rallied outside the US military base in Bagram today following reports that personnel station there had burned copies of the Koran: here.

Photos are here.

Afghanistan: Dozens Wounded In Demonstrations Over Quran-Burning At NATO Base: here.

USA: Last Friday, 87 House members sent a letter to President Obama stating support for a plan to accelerate the end of combat operations in Afghanistan (as announced by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta earlier this month): here.

Bagram torture prison population growing


This video is called U S Torture at Afghanistan Bagram Army Base Pt1.

And this is Part 2.

From Salon.com in the USA:

Saturday, Jun 4, 2011 11:01 ET

The Gitmo no one talks about

By Justin Elliott

President Obama has presided over a threefold increase in the number of detainees being held at the controversial military detention center at Bagram Air Base, the Afghan cousin of the notorious prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. It’s the latest piece of news that almost certainly would be getting more attention — especially from Democrats — if George W. Bush were still president.

There are currently more than 1,700 detainees at Bagram, up from over 600 at the end of the Bush administration.

The situation at Bagram, especially the legal process that determines whether detainees are released, is the subject of a new report by Human Rights First. It finds that the current system of hearings for detainees “falls short of the requirements of international law” because they are not given “an adequate opportunity to defend themselves against charges that they are collaborating with insurgents and present a threat to U.S. forces.” Human Rights First also argues that cases of unjustified imprisonment are damaging the broader war effort by undermining Afghans’ trust in the military.

I spoke to the author of the report, Daphne Eviatar, a senior associate in the law and security program at Human Rights First who traveled to Bagram to observe the situation first-hand. The following transcript of our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

The [British] government has let a man languish in Bagram detention centre for seven years without charge because it claims it would be “politically embarrassing” and “futile” to ask for his release: here.

United States: Yemenis cleared for release held in Guantanamo for years: here.

Torture Accountability After All? Stephen Soldz, Truthout: “Over the last few years, as one avenue of accountability after another was closed, it looked as if the torture program would be protected as carefully by the Obama administration as it was by the Bush administration. The result, many feared, was that torture would remain an available tool of the state, to be dragged out by future administrations who could cite the lack of accountability for Bush torture by a Democratic administration as evidence of a bipartisan consensus that torture really isn’t that bad. Many human rights experts have argued that future courts, too, could view the current lack of accountability as a legal precedent, potentially further shielding future torturers. The one avenue for accountability that wasn’t closed by the Obama administration was the investigation by Department of Justice prosecutor John Durham. Durham, readers may recall, was the federal prosecutor originally tasked to investigate the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes in apparent violation of a court order. In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder expanded Durham’s mandate to include investigating incidents of detainee treatment that went beyond even those actions approved under the so-called ‘torture memos’ of the Bush Justice Department”: here.