Watching the Shadows
The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) on Oct. 19 filed a criminal complaint against a high-ranking CIA official for mistreatment of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who was detained and allegedly tortured for four months in 2003. El-Masri was on vacation in Macedonia when he was mistaken for Khalid al-Masri, a suspect in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. El-Masri was then transported to Afghanistan where he was detained and questioned for four months under the direction of Alfreda Frances Bikowsky. At the time, Bikowsky was deputy chief of the Central Intelligence Agency's Bin Laden Issue Station. ECCHR asserts in the complaint that the US Senate Torture Report ties Bikowsky to el-Masri's detention, and ECCHR requests that the German federal prosecutor investigate.
Former Guantánamo Bay prisoner Djamel Ameziane filed a petition (PDF) with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) seeking reparations from the US government for human rights violations he alleges that he endured while in custody. Ameziane was forcibly returned to his home country of Algeria in December 2013, despite his protests that he would be subjected to persecution based on his ethnic minority status and in violation of IACHR precautionary measures. Ameziane was held for 12 years in Guantánamo Bay without charge and claims he was subjected to physical and psychological abuse there in violation of articles of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is representing Ameziane's case against the government. This filing marks the first time the IACHR will consider a case against US arising from Guantánamo Bay. Ameziane is seeking compensation for the rights violations, the return of money seized from him upon his arrest, and to require the US to "adopt all measures necessary to guarantee the safety and integrity of all men remaining" at Guantánamo.
The Obama administration on Sept. 25 notified Congress of its plan to release Guantánamo Bay inmate Shaker Aamer to the United Kingdom next month. Aamer, who was captured in Afghanistan in 2001, is the final British resident held in the United States' military prison. Although he denies association, Aamer allegedly held close ties to Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, and fought in the battle of Tora Bora. Now the Saudi national, who married a British citizen in 1990, will be sent back to the UK in mid-October, following a long run of lobbying by British politicians and celebrities to have Aamer released.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced Sept. 22 that it had transferred Guantánamo Bay detainee Abdul Shalabi. Shalabi, who likely was a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden, was transferred to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after a Periodic Review Board determined in June that, although he may still sympathize with extremists, his continued detention did "not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States." Today 114 detainees remain at Guantánamo Bay.
Moroccan-born Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri, who spent 13 years in the Guantánamo Bay prison, was released Sept. 17 as part of the Obama administration's effort to wind down and eventually close the detention center. The US never formally charged Chekkouri with a crime, but according to military documents he was believed to have been an associate of Osama bin Laden and to have run al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Chekkouri was cleared for release by the Guantanamo Review Task Force (PDF) in January 2010. Rights group Reprieve after his release reported that he was still being held by local authorities in his native Morocco. The prisoner release is the first since June, when six Guantanamo detainees were transferred to Oman. The prison's population is now reduced to to 115.
The US government, on order from federal judge Gladys Kessler, has released eight redacted videos showing forced feedings at Guantánamo Bay prison. The videos, released to the US District Court for the District of Columbia as part of former prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab's suit against the federal government, depict tube-feeding conducted by medical and security personnel. Although the exact details are unknown, the videos are thought to show Dhiab being fed through a tube in his nose while in a restraining chair. Dhiab initially filed suit challenging his 12-year detention at Guantánamo, during which he was never charged, and has since alleged that the forced feedings were punitive rather than life-sustaining measures. Thus far, only eight of the 32 existing force-feeding videos have been provided, and those were released after being censored for anything used to identify those involved. Next month, lawyers for each side are expected to discuss releasing the remaining videos.
A federal judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia on July 30 rejected a legal challenge from a Guantánamo Bay detainee who claimed that his detention at the naval base was illegal. Muktar Yahya Najee al-Warafi from Yemen was captured in Afghanistan and has been held at Guantánamo since 2002. In his challenge, he claimed that his imprisonment was unlawful due to recent statement by President Barack Obama that hostilities between the US and the Taliban have ended. Warafi brought the action under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), arguing that the stated end of hostilities made it unlawful to continue holding him. However, Judge Royce C. Lamberth wrote that the government had presented "convincing evidence that US involvement in the fighting in Afghanistan, against al-Qaida and Taliban forces alike, has not stopped... A court cannot look to political speeches alone to determine factual and legal realities merely because doing so would be easier than looking at all the relevant evidence." Warafi has yet to decide if he will appeal.
The US State Department on June 19 released its "Country Reports on Terrorism 2014," finding that the number of terrorist attacks around the world rose by a third in 2014 compared with the previous year. The number of people killed in such attacks rose by 80%, to nearly 33,000. The sharp increase was largely due to the "unprecedented" seizure of territory in Iraq and Syria by ISIS, and the growith of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Terrorist groups used more aggressive tactics in 2014 than in previous years, such as beheadings and crucifixions. ISIS attacks on religious minorities like Christians and Yazidis are cited. Islamic State was particularly lethal. The reports says the June 2014 massacre at a prison in Mosul, Iraq, in which ISIS killed 670 Shi'ite prisoners "was the deadliest attack worldwide since September 11, 2001." The report notes the "central al-Qaeda leadership" has been weakened, but the network's regional affiliates have gained ground in places like Yemen and the Horn of Africa. (BBC News, Reuters, State Department, June 19)