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No More Guantanamos

January 2011 Newsletter

In this issue:

Guantánamo at Nine

Grassroots News:

  • New York City chapter posts prisoners' stories under banner, Are these men your enemies?
  • Pittsburgh, PA, the newest NMG chapter, advocates for Fayiz al-Kandari's release

 
 
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Guantánamo at Nine

Nine years after the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, opened as a law-free zone, 173 prisoners remain. Most should never have been brought to any prison, and they have been cleared for transfer but they cannot leave, either because they have nowhere to go or because they are Yemenis and continue to be held solely on the basis of their nationality. The Obama administration’s goal to close Guantánamo has faded from among its priorities. One of the 111th Congress’s final acts was to make closing the prison more difficult than ever.

But people around the world have not forgotten the men still imprisoned there or the injustices that the prison represents. In Washington, DC, Witness Against Torture www.witnesstorture.org held a rally in front of the White House, with speakers including Andy Worthington and Ray McGovern, 173 demonstrators dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods representing the remaining prisoners, and representatives from the Center for Constitutional Rights (http://ccrjustice.org/), Amnesty International USA (http://www.amnestyusa.org/), September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows (http://www.peacefultomorrows.org/), and other organizations. Following that rally, the demonstrators proceeded to the Department of Justice, where sixty demonstrators blocked three entrances to protest the administration’s failure to close the prison. No arrests were made there, but in Chicago, ten demonstrators were arrested outside the federal building. Read the Washington Post story here. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/11/AR201101...)

Witness Against Torture’s demonstrations will continue with actions in and around Washington, DC, and all over the U.S., and with 100 people nationwide taking part in an 11-day juice fast that began on January 11th and will end January 22nd, the second anniversary of President Obama’s failed executive order to close the prison within one year.

What you can do:


Grassroots News

New York, NY

NMG’s New York City affiliate, NYC for Guantánamo Justice, (http://www.nogitmos.org/nycguantanamojustice) has written stories of three detainees, two currently at Guantánamo Bay and one imprisoned at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. The stories with photos are posted on the Witness Against Torture website. (http://www.witnesstorture.org) You’ll find the three men’s photos there, beneath a banner that reads, “Are these men your enemies?” Click on the photos to read the men’s stories.

Pittsburgh, PA

Our newest chapter is in Pittsburgh, PA. The group is currently working on behalf of Fayiz al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti detainee. Find the group’s page and al Kandari’s story here, and sign the petition to free him to the care of the Kuwaiti government.
(http://www.nogitmos.org/pittsburghnomoreguantanamos)


Obama Signs Ban on Funds for Closing Guantánamo Bay Prison into Law

Last week, President Obama signed the Defense Authorization Act that Congress had approved in December, even though the bill bars his administration from using Department of Defense (DOD) funds to try Guantánamo detainees in Federal court and places unwieldy restrictions on resettling detainees outside the U.S. Obama’s signing statement accompanying the act states that his administration will work with Congress toward repeal of these restrictions. However, his statement does not indicate that his administration will interpret the ban on court trials narrowly—as a ban only on the use of DOD funds for trying prisoners. He could use Department of Justice funds to try the men, but he has not shown any interest in doing so.

The ban, which was attached to the Defense Authorization Act of 2011, prevents the administration from using DOD funds to bring detainees to the U.S. for prosecution or other purposes and adds conditions to future releases that will be nearly impossible for the Obama administration to meet. The current ban will expire on September 30, 2011.

No one in the Obama administration has criticized the continued ban on allowing any detainees into the U.S. for any other purpose, such as resettlement, nor have they indicated when the Yemeni detainees whom the administration has cleared—who continue to be held on the basis of their nationality alone—will be sent home.

We need to continue and to intensify our work to prevent President Obama and his administration from using Congress’s ban as a convenient excuse for ignoring the remaining prisoners at Guantánamo and the other men our government is holding in extrajudicial detention.


Algerian Who Won his Habeas Forcibly Repatriated; More Forced Repatriations Likely

On January 6, Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed became the second Algerian whom the Obama administration has returned to Algeria against his will. Both bin Mohammed and Abdul Aziz Naji, who was forcibly repatriated last July, had left Algeria years ago.

According to international law, the U.S. government cannot repatriate anyone to a country where he or she faces a risk of persecution, torture, or death. Bin Mohammed was so fearful of being repatriated that he had pleaded with the U.S. government to keep him in Guantánamo. His legal team had appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent his forced repatriation, and they sought other countries that might be willing to welcome him.

The U.S. government may be basing its repatriation decisions on Algerian government assurances that the men will be treated fairly. In the case of bin Mohammed as well as other Algerians at Guantánamo who have fought repatriation, his fear of the Algeria-based terrorist group, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, may match or exceed their fears of torture at the hands of the Algerian government. Their status as former Guantánamo detainees makes them attractive targets for the group.

The Algerians who have been forcibly repatriated and those who continue to fight their repatriation were sent to Guantánamo by mistake, in most cases due to a bounty arrangement with the U.S. military. Years before their imprisonment, they had successfully fled from their home country and likely would have resettled in other countries by now. In the case of Ahmed Belbacha, for example, he cannot return to his adopted country, the U.K. because he missed his asylum hearing; he was in Guantánamo at the time. The U.S. government, which removed bin Mohammed, Naji, Belbacha, and others from their paths toward asylum, then held them for nine years in one of the world’s most notorious prisons without charge or trial, owes these men help rebuilding their lives. Merely shipping them back to the country from which they escaped is a cruel way to end their extrajudicial detention.


Leak Suspect Bradley Manning Suffers Mistreatment in Detention

If we were to compare WikiLeaks “Cablegate” to the release of the Pentagon Papers, WikiLeaks is the media company, comparable to the “New York Times,” which published the leaked documents. Army Private Bradley Manning, 23, who is suspected of leaking thousands of diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, is the whistleblower, as Daniel Ellsberg was, if he did indeed release the files. If Manning is found guilty in a court martial, he could face 54 years in prison. But while WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is constantly in the news, Manning rarely is.

Although Manning has not been charged with any crime, he has been held for six and a half months in a marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, in solitary confinement. The conditions under which he is being held are especially harsh: No blanket or pillow, no newspapers, and no ability to exercise at will. According to his friend David House, who is the only person besides Manning’s lawyer who has visited him, these conditions have affected Manning’s mental state and have made him physically weak.

What you can do:

Manning should be presumed innocent and treated according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice until and unless he is proven guilty of crimes. The website bradleymanning.org (http://www.bradleymanning.org/what-can-i-do/) lists several ways you can help Manning, including by contributing funds for his defense.


More on Guantánamo “Recidivism”

Our December issue reported on a misleading “recidivism” report that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence provided to Congress in December. The data suggests—without naming a single man—that as many as one in four former prisoners have fought against the U.S. after their release from Guantánamo. The questionable report undoubtedly gave members of Congress the backing they needed to expand its previous ban on allowing detainees into the U.S.

On January 11, the New America Foundation released its own report, “How Many Gitmo Alumni Take Up Arms?, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/11/how_many_gitmo_alumni_t.... Based on data http://www.foreignpolicy.com/files/fp_uploaded_documents/110112_Recidivi... the report’s authors compiled from U.S. and foreign sources, they conclude that the number of released men who are confirmed or suspected of engaging in acts that threaten the U.S. or its allies is closer to 6 percent.


Please support NMG's work to demand human rights for detainees.

 

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