Watching the Shadows
Lawyers for Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Zubaydah on Jan. 28 asked the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to rule on whether Poland violated their client's rights by aiding the US in detaining and allegedly torturing Zubaydah in a secret CIA prison. Zubaydah, a top al-Qaeda suspect, alleges that he was transferred to Poland and subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques." An investigation into the prison has been ongoing in Poland since 2008, but Zubaydah's lawyers argued that it has made no noticeable effort to bring any perpetrators to justice. The letter is notice that an application for a hearing will be filed.
Defense lawyers for the five accused 9-11 conspirators petitioned a US military judge at Guantánamo Bay on Jan. 28 to preserve the prisons where the defendants were held as evidence. The defendants claim that they were tortured during their time held in secret CIA prisons. This is one of the many issues that are set to be litigated when pretrial hearings begin Monday at the war crimes tribunal taking place at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, accused of planning the 9-11 attacks, is among those set to stand trial. Lawyers for the defendants have requested documents from the White House and Justice Department that authorized the CIA to move suspected al-Qaeda members across borders after 9-11 and keep them in secret prisons for interrogations. Defense lawyers will argue that the defendants were subjected to illegal pre-trial punishment. The prosecution maintains that it will not use any information in trial that was obtained through torture or other techniques that violate US or international law.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Jan. 25 vacated the conspiracy conviction of Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul (HRW profile), former media secretary of Osama bin Laden. The DC Circuit ruled that the military tribunal that convicted al-Bahlul of conspiracy in 2007 erred because a Guantánamo prisoner could not be convicted of conspiracy unless his crime took place after 2006. The court explained that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 codified conspiracy as a war crime, but did not apply to crimes committed before the MCA was passed. Al-Bahlul was captured in 2001. The US has 90 days to appeal the DC Circuit's decision to the US Supreme Court.
World War 4 Report has been keeping a dispassionate record of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) established by the Bush White House. On the day of his second inauguration, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves over the past year have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score:
A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Jan. 9 that lawyers for a detainee at Guantánamo Bay may not review top secret documentation. Wali Mohammed Morafa, who has been detained for financially aiding the operations of terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, requested for some top secret documentations concerning source-related information which the government refused to disclose. Instead the government offered an alternate secret version without substitutes for some source information. Morafa's lawyers have clearance for only secret but not top secret information.
Talk of former Republican Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel's imminent nomination as Obama's new Secreaty of Defense has sparked all the predictable reactions—but they don't neatly break down along lines of right and left. MondoWeiss says the pick is "setting up a battle between the left and right flanks of the Israel lobby and between realist supporters of Hagel and his neoconservative detractors." We have, of course, pointed out that "realist" or "pragmatist" is a euphemism for what is more properly termed "paleocon." While the neocons harbor hubristic dreams of re-making the Middle East (and the rest of the world) along lines favorable to the US and Israel, the paleocons favor stability under authoritarian regimes. Neither position is even remotely progressive, and it is frustrating to see ostensible leftists get caught up in a Beltway intrigue between rival currents within the political right.
US President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (PDF) into law on Jan. 3. The bill, which authorizes appropriations for military activities for 2013, expressly prohibits using funds to transfer individuals detained at Guantánamo Bay and also prohibits using funds to construct facilities in the US intended to house Guantánamo detainees. Obama signed the NDAA despite earlier indications that he may veto (statement, PDF) the bill, in part because of concerns over the Guantánamo detainee restrictions. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has criticized Obama for signing the bill, stating that he has "utterly failed the first test of his second term" by effectively ensuring that indefinite detention will continue and jeopardizing his ability to keep his promise of closing the military prison.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Dec. 13 ruled (PDF) that the government of Macedonia is responsible for the torture and degrading maltreatment of a man the ECHR found to be an innocent victim of CIA "extraordinary rendition" in 2003. Lebanese German citizen Khaled el-Masri was arrested and mistreated for 23 days of interrogation in a hotel in the Macedonian capital Skopje, then transferred to CIA agents who took him to a secret detention facility in Afghanistan where he was held for four months. After a hearing in May, the ECHR Grand Chamber of 17 judges unanimously held that el-Masri had established beyond a reasonable doubt that Macedonia was responsible for several violations of various provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3, the right to liberty and security under Article 5 and others. The ECHR ordered the government of Macedonia to pay el-Masri €60,000 in damages. El-Masri has been implicated in several violent incidents in Germany in the last few years, receiving a suspended sentence for arson in 2007 and a two-year prison sentence for assaulting a town mayor in 2010, for which he is still serving time.