Conviction of bin Laden assistant upheld

A federal appeals court on Oct. 20 upheld (PDF) a conspiracy conviction of the former personal assistant to Osama bin Laden. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that a military tribunal had jurisdiction to convict Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul. Bahlul was tried and convicted by a military commission created after September 11, 2001. A three-judge panel had thrown out the conspiracy conviction last year, and the Obama administration requested that the full appeals court reconsider the case. The issue in the case was whether the constitution grants Congress the ability to determine that conspiracy to commit war crimes is an offense triable by military commissions even though conspiracy crimes are not recognized as international war crimes. The majority determined that foreign nations could not have "a de facto veto power" over Congress' determination of which war crimes may be considered by a military tribunal:

Australia using Nauru as 'open-air prison'

Australia is using the island of Nauru as an "open-air prison," putting refugees and asylum seekers through an abusive processing system as a means to prevent immigration, according to a report (PDF) released by Amnesty International Oct. 17. The report charges that Australia has ignored the 1951 Refugee Convention (PDF) by subjecting asylum seekers and refugees to "egregious abuses," essentially trapping them on the remote island. The report includes dozens of interviews with refugees, documenting claims of mental health issues, suicide attempts and attacks at the hands of Nauru citizens. It describes inadequate and often "deeply humiliating and traumatizing" medical treatment, and abuses carried out against children, including physical abuse from staff contracted by Australia, and the denial of their right to education. The report calls upon the Australian government to ensure the safety and well-being of refugees, and increase access to existing migration programs.

Ex-Gitmo detainee maintains Uruguay hunger strike

Uruguay's Foreign Minister, Rodolfo Nin Novoa, on Oct. 7 urged a former Guantánamo prisoner, Jihad Diyab, to call off his hunger strike, stating that Montevideo is attempting to transfer him to another country. Diyab is a Syrian national who was held for 12 years in Guantánamo without being formally charged and was released in 2014 along with five other prisoners. Diyab started this strike two months ago demanding that he be reunited with his family. According to rights groups, Diyab is conscious although in weak physical condition. Novoa reiterated that his government will "continue looking for a better future for him and his family" and urged Diyab to abandon his hunger strike immediately.

Ex-CIA officials ordered to testify in torture suit

A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington on Oct. 4 ruled (PDF) that four former high-ranking Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials must testify in depositions in a lawsuit against two psychologists who designed the CIA torture program. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)  filed the lawsuit last year against James Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen, who allegedly designed torture techniques and persuaded the CIA to adopt these techniques as official practice. According to the lawsuit, they personally took part in many of the torture sessions and oversaw the entire program's implementation. The court order also requires the government to furnish documents requested by the psychologists. Although the federal government is not a party in the case, it filed motions to prevent the depositions, arguing that it could lead to an accidental disclosure of classified information. The court denied the request, and stated counsel for the parties must agree on scheduling the depositions and the best manner to conduct them efficiently.

House approves bill blocking Gitmo transfers

The US House of Representatives on Sept. 15 approved  a bill (PDF) that would temporarily block the transfer of detainees from the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. The bill, which passed with a 244-174 vote, would prevent transfers until a 2017 military budget is passed or until President Barack Obama leaves office. The Obama administration has cleared 20 of the remaining 61 detainees for transfer. The bill is not expected to survive, as the White House has threatened to veto even if the bill does pass through the Senate. Proponents of the bill argue it is necessary due to threat of recidivism. To date, more than 693 detainees have been released during the Bush and Obama administrations. According to a report from the Director of National Intelligence (PDF), 122 of these have returned to militancy, while others are "suspected" of having returned to terrorist activity.

Ex-Gitmo detainee hospitalized in hunger strike

A former Guantánamo detainee who was resettled in Uruguay was hospitalized and released on Sept. 6 after a hunger strike left him weak. Since his release from the hospital, Abu Wa'el Dhiab has resumed his hunger strike, vowing that he will continue until he is either reunited with his family or dead. Dhiab is a native of Syria and was one of six detainees accepted by the Uruguayan government after their release from Guantánamo Bay. Dhiab, however, has said that he feels as if he is a prisoner in Uruguay. The Uruguayan government is continuing to figure out a way to reunite Dhiab with his family.

US transfers 15 Guantánamo detainees to UAE

The US Department of Defense on Aug. 15 announced the transfer  of 15 Guantánamo detainees to the United Arab Emirates. Twelve of the detainees were from Yemen, and the other three were from Afghanistan. Six of the detainees had been approved for release since 2009, and the others were cleared for release more recently. Thirteen of the detainees had never faced any charges, and two of the Afghan detainees had their military commission charges drops. This marks the largest single detainee transfer so far, as the Obama administration works toward its goal of shuttering the detention center. After these transfers, there are 61 detainees remaining at Guantánamo.

Ex-CIA agent faces extradition to Italy

Former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative Sabrina de Sousa will be extradited to Italy to serve a four-year prison sentence following a ruling by Portugal's Constitutional Court on June 8. De Sousa filed an appeal in April, a last attempt to prevent her extradition to Italy to serve a sentence for her involvement in a US extraordinary renditions program. De Sousa was arrested at a Portuguese airport after she had been convicted in absentia by an Italian court for her part in the 2003 kidnapping and "rendition" of Egyptian terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr (AKA Abu Omar). The Portugal Supreme Court rejected her appeal of an extradition order, leaving de Sousa no choice but to argue that her extradition order is unconstitutional. De Sousa was one of 26 Americans convicted in the kidnapping.

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