A fortnightly Green Bulletin of News, Action and Analysis
THE WAY OUT OF GUANTANAMO BAY.
In the second week of June the European Parliament voted, by a large majority, to adopt a joint resolution that called for the US administration to close the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. It also insisted that every prisoner be treated in accordance with international humanitarian law, and if charged, be tried without delay in public before a competent and independent tribunal.
On 15 June Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke commented that as a “very, very, very good friend” of the United States, New Zealand should rescue President George Bush from his current bind over Guantanamo Bay, and urge him to close the facility.
“Even President Bush now concedes that he’d like to close the facility. Even he realises that the inhuman and illegal treatment being meted out to Gitmo’s inmates is damaging America’s image abroad. As a keen supporter of the UN, this is a golden chance for Helen Clark to woo President Bush back onto the path of multilateralism,” Keith said.
– and see ACTION and ANALYSIS below for a film you can see and a report you can read about what happens at Guantanamo Bay, and why and how the torture camp needs to be closed down.
IS THE RAYED ALI CASE OUR GUANTANAMO BAY?
Keith has complained in Parliament about the May 30 deportation of the Yemeni pilot Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali under the draconian Section 72 of the Immigration Act, merely on the basis of two items of circumstantial evidence, namely that a September 11 bomber had flatted with him for a month, and he was in New Zealand here to train for an additional flying license.
On June 13 Keith had the following exchange in the House with the Prime Minister, following on from questions by National MP Murray McCully on terrorist designations.
Would it not have been a bit silly to designate Mr Abdullah, or Mr Ali, when the United States interrogated him intensively after September 11 and did not see a need to deport him, even though he was not a US citizen, and could she, without disclosing operational details, give us a bit more of an explanation of why he was deported, in view of the fact that the United States did not deport him?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK:
My understanding is the same as the member’s: that this man was not deported from the United States. Personally, I consider it a no-brainer that someone who has been a roommate of a 9/11 terrorist, and who is having pilot training, is here for no particularly good purpose. He seems to have had perfectly adequate English. He applied to come here to learn English. That is not what he set out to do. And he has gone.
However, the Prime Minister’s brain should now be telling her that Mr Ali volunteered information to the FBI after September 11, was not arrested or deported, seems well liked in both US and New Zealand, and could well have a legitimate interest in getting a commercial flying license here.
Unless the government comes up with something else, we can only conclude that Mr Ali was bundled out of the country on the draconian Section 72, which does not allow for appeals, just to avoid any meaningful public debate around the rights and wrongs of his case.
There was no obvious “threat to national security”, the reason required, under Section 72, to subject Mr Ali to such immediate expulsion. As reported on Monday, the Immigration Minister, David Cunliffe, assured us that “it is not as if he was planning anything untoward, that’s not the grounds for expulsion” and there “was no specific terrorist threat or terrorist risk associated with this gentleman while he was in New Zealand.” [New Zealand Herald, June 12]
However, even if there wasn’t a danger to New Zealand, the way the government handled the case may has put Mr Ali in real danger in Saudi Arabia, where he is now in jail. As a result of the aspersions put on him by the New Zealand government he is now under interrogation by Saudi authorities, who are known to have little regard to human rights. The US State Department Report on Saudi Arabia (2006) says that “political detainees arrested by the internal security service were held incommunicado in special prisons during the initial phase of investigations” and prisoners are subject to “beatings, whippings and sleep deprivation”.
Keith is pursuing this case with the government.
To read more on this issue go to Finlay MacDonald’s article
TAKE The Road to Guantánamo AT THE NZ FILM FESTIVAL.
The NZ Film Festival rolls out across the country from July to September, starting in Auckland on July 13. Check the Festival’s website —
— for when and where the film The Road to Guantánamo will be showing in your city.
Directed by British film makers Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, who won the Silver Bear (Best Director), award for this movie at the Berlin Film Festival 2006, The Road to Guantánamo is the true story of four British Muslim boys who went to Pakistan for a wedding in September 2001 – and ended up as tortured prisoners of the US Army for two and a half years. The story is told using reconstructions with actors, newsreel footage and interviews.
See the film — then see what you can do to join the growing tide of international opinion and pressure against the illegal prison. Check out Amnesty International’s webpage
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S LATEST REPORT ON THE ABUSES AT GUANTANAMO
– Ending Guantánamo Bay detentions — can be accessed at
Excerpts from the report are reproduced below.
”Ending Guantánamo Bay detentions
When I hear US officials describe the suicides of three Muslim prisoners at Guantánamo Bay last Saturday as ‘asymmetric warfare’ and ‘a good PR move’, I know it’s time to close that camp — not just because of what it’s doing to the prisoners but because of how it is dehumanizing the American captors. (David Ignatius, Washington Post, 14 June 2006)
The continuing indefinite detention of some 460 people in Guantánamo remains a violation of international law, a distressing fact in their and their families’ lives, a stain upon the United States, and a contradiction of the US administration’s National Security Strategy, which takes the position that respect for the “non-negotiable demands of human dignity” is the route to security not an obstacle to it.
Amnesty International deeply regrets that it took four years and required court action before the USA named the detainees held in Department of Defense custody in the base. The organization notes, however, that the numbers do not add up. The authorities released a list of 759 names of people held in Department of Defense custody at the base between January 2002 and 15 May 2006. However, three days later it stated that 287 detainees have been released or transferred from the base and “approximately 460” remain there, making a total of 747.(2) Amnesty International requests clarification as to why there is a difference of 12 detainees.(3)
Indeed, many questions surrounding the Guantánamo detentions remain unanswered. For example:
Were there ever people held at the base who were not in Department of Defense custody, who have not shown up on the Pentagon’s list? For example, as already noted, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operated its own area at the Guantánamo facility. Did the CIA only ever interrogate those in Defense Department custody? Were there any detainees held in exclusive CIA custody, or perhaps later transferred from the CIA to the Department of Defense? The 2005 Schmidt/Furlow report into FBI allegations of abuse in Guantánamo said that it found no evidence of “ghost detainees” having been held at the base, but there is no indication that the CIA was included within the scope of the investigation.(4) In the earlier Church report, the CIA did not provide any information on its activities in Guantánamo, Afghanistan or at undisclosed locations.(5)
In addition to the inadequacy of investigations into alleged abuses by US personnel, to Amnesty International’s knowledge, none of the military investigations conducted to date has looked into allegations that detainees have been ill-treated by or with the involvement of agents of other countries while held in Guantánamo.(6) The US administration has never refuted allegations first raised by Amnesty International in May 2004 that agents of the Chinese government visited Guantánamo in September 2002 and participated in interrogations of ethnic Uighur detainees held there.(7) This allegation was again raised in federal court in 2005 and again the government did not refute it.(8) It is alleged that during the agents’ visit, the detainees were subjected to intimidation and threats(9), and to interrogation techniques such as environmental (temperature) manipulation, forced sitting for many hours, and sleep deprivation, some of which was on the instruction of the Chinese delegation. Similarly Omar Deghayes has claimed that he was twice interrogated by Libyan agents in Guantánamo, on 9 and 11 September 2004. He alleged that the US military authorities took him to an interrogation room with the air-conditioning on maximum and left him there for several hours, shackled and freezing cold. Eventually, at around midnight on 9 September 2004, four Libyan agents and three US personnel in civilian clothes entered the room. He said he was interrogated for around three hours by the Libyan agents, and again two days later. The agents allegedly made veiled threats of violence and death against him if he should ever be returned to Libya, and showed him pictures of severely beaten Libyan dissidents. Amnesty International has flight records showing that a Gulfstream V jet, registration N8068V (previously registered as N379P), flew direct from Tripoli in Libya to Guantánamo Bay the day before Omar Deghayes says he was first interrogated by the Libyan agents.(10) In another case, Ala Abdel Maqsud Muhammad Salim, an Egyptian national, has alleged that he was interrogated on a number of occasions in late 2004 by a delegation from Egypt. These Egyptian agents threatened him that he would be “disappeared” or subjected to other harm after he was returned to Egypt.(11) During these interrogations he alleges that he was subjected to cruel use of shackles and chains and to environmental (temperature) manipulation via the air conditioning.
The USA has not answered the question of how many children it has held in Afghanistan and Guantánamo. The authorities have apparently limited their definition of child to someone who is under 16, contradicting most international legal standards which hold that children are those who are under 18 years old and subject to particular protections.(12) Research suggests that there may have been at least 17 detainees who were taken to Guantánamo when they were under 18 years old.(13)
The latest questions to be raised in relation to the Guantánamo detainees surround the apparent suicides of three of them, Saudi nationals Mane’i bin Shaman bin Turki al-Habardi al-‘Otaybi and Yassar Talal ‘Abdullah Yahia al-Zahrani, who was reportedly 17 when he was taken into custody, and Yemeni national Salah ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Ahmed al-Salami. All three had previously participated in hunger-strikes and subjected to force feeding. All were held in a maximum security section of the detention camp. There are no records publicly available of the men’s Combatant Status Review Tribunals. Amnesty International is disturbed by the Guantánamo Commander’s description of the deaths as acts of “asymmetric warfare”, by which he was tending to prejudge the outcome of the Naval Criminal Investigation Service investigation into the deaths.(14) Amnesty International believes that the military and the executive, as the authorities that have instigated and maintained a detention regime that has caused serious psychological suffering, and as they continue to rely on the war paradigm that they have used to justify rejection of fundamental human rights law and standards, will be unable to conduct the necessary investigation into the deaths and be seen by the outside world to have done so. Amnesty International reiterates its call for a full independent and impartial investigation into these deaths.(15)…”
… Amnesty International here details its recommendations for an alternative to continued detentions at Guantánamo. In brief, those held in the base should be released unless they are to be charged and tried in accordance with international standards of fair trial. No detainees who are released should be forcibly sent to their country of origin or other countries where they may face serious human rights abuses. Indeed, it is crucial that emptying and closing down the Guantánamo camp not result in a transfer of the human rights violations elsewhere. In more detail, the organization recommends the following framework for determining what should happen to the detainees who are still held there.
1. Any detention facility which is used to hold persons beyond the protection of international human rights and humanitarian law should be closed. The detention camp at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base falls into this category, and in more than four years of detention operations there, the US administration has failed to bring the facility into compliance with international law and standards.
2. Closing Guantánamo must not result in the transfer of the human rights violations elsewhere. All detainees in US custody must be treated in accordance with international human rights standards, and, where relevant, international humanitarian law. All US detention centres must be open to appropriate external scrutiny, in particular that of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
3. The responsibility for finding a solution for the detainees held in Guantánamo rests first and foremost with the USA. The US administration created the system of detention Guantánamo in which detainees — many of whom were transferred to the facility unlawfully — have been held without charge or trial, outside the framework of international law and without the possibility of full recourse to US courts. It is therefore the US administration’s responsibility to redress this situation in full compliance with international human rights standards.
4. All US officials in the administration should desist from further undermining the presumption of innocence in relation to the Guantánamo detainees. The continued commentary on their presumed guilt applies a dangerous label to them — dangerous to the prospect for a fair trial and dangerous to the safety of any detainee who is released. This can only make the USA’s task of resolving the Guantánamo issue more difficult.
5. Those currently held in Guantánamo should be released unless they are to be charged and tried in accordance with international standards of fair trial.
6. No detainees who are released should be forcibly sent to their country of origin or other countries where they may face serious human rights abuses.
7. Those to be charged and tried must be charged with a recognizable crime under law and tried before an independent and impartial tribunal, such as a US federal court, in full accordance with international standards of fair trial. There should be no recourse to the death penalty.
8. Any evidence obtained under torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment should not be admissible. In light of the years of legal, physical and mental abuse to which detainees held in Guantánamo have been subjected, any trials must scrupulously respect international standards of fairness and any sentencing take into account the length and conditions of detention in Guantánamo or elsewhere prior to be transported to Guantánamo.
9. President George W. Bush should rescind his 13 November 2001 Military Order establishing military commissions and authorizing detention without charge or trial. The military commissions do not afford proper safeguards for a fair trial. They are not independent, the procedures before them do not secure a fair process (eg statements extracted under cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment may be used as evidence), the defendant may be excluded from hearing all of the evidence against him and, under the Detainee Treatment Act, there is only a limited right of appeal against their sentences to a court of law…”
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