US Federal Judge rules government properly holding two Guantanamo detainees + more evidence on detainee abuse in Guantanamo Bay

(SCOTUS): U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ruled in December that two Guantanamo Bay detainees — nationals of Yemen and Tunisia — must remain prisoners of the U.S. military, finding that the government has proved that each is an “enemy combatant.”  In the most significant of the two separate rulings (Al Alwi), the judge concluded that the government does not have to prove that a detainee uses arms against U.S. forces or against forces of its coalition partners, in order to fit the judge’s definition of an enemy associated with Al Qaeda or Taliban.

Although there is no evidence of petitioner actually using arms against U.S. or coalition forces, the Government does not need to prove such facts in order for petitioner to be classified as an enemy combatant under the definition adopted by the Court. Petitioner Al Alwi’s close ties to Taliban and al Qaeda forces during the year preceding the initiation of force by the United State in October 2001, combined with the fact that he remained with his Taliban unit after hostilities were initiated by the United States and its allies, is more than enough to meet the definitional requirement.

The ruling against the Yemeni captive, Moath Hamza Ahmed Al Alwi, can be found here.  The ruling against the Tunisian prisoner, Hisham Sliti, can be found here.

A lawyer for Mr. Sliti, Cori Crider of the British legal group Reprieve, said that there were many issues for appeal, including the government’s reliance on classified evidence her client was not permitted to see.

The habeas rulings are being watched carefully, in part because decisions approving the holding of Guantánamo detainees could be used by the Obama administration as a legal justification to continue to hold some of them even if the prison in Cuba is closed.

The ruling  followed his decision last month in a separate case declaring that five Algerian born Bosnians had been held unlawfully at the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for nearly seven years and ordering their release. 

Update on the 3 released Bosnians

The three Algerian-Bosnians were the first freed inmates to have been released by the US administration of President George W. Bush under a judge’s orders. In an interview with AFP after being released they stated they had endured systematic beatings and abuses on a scale beyond imagination, confirming earlier allegations from other released detainees. One of the released men, Mustafa Ait Idir accused US authorities of using doctors in a systematic way to cover up human rights abuses.

“I once saw a doctor with a group of guards. The doctor pointed to different places on a body of a prisoner saying ‘hit him here.’ After the beating, there were no visible marks on the body but that man was in such pain he couldn’t move,” he said.

We were told prisoners would be split into two groups. One was to be released by judges’ orders while the others were to be released by (US president-elect Barack) Obama once he enters office,” he said without elaborating on the source of the information.

The Pentagon denied all the allegations.”The Department of Defense policy is clear,” Gordon said. “We treat all detainees humanely.” He said that 12 major reviews conducted of detention operations in recent years did not find any policy that condoned abuse.

(In a recent interview, Moazzam Begg elaborated on the role of the medical staff and the ICRC at Guantanamo Bay. Read it here)

Idr was asked whether he will be taking the American or Bosnia-Herzegovina government to court, he said that he is “bitter about his experience, but he would not be pressing charges”. Idir revealed that he will stay with his family in Bosnia, where he will try to find a job, adding that he is “a computer specialist and karate coach”.

Two of the five acquitted by Judge Leon, Saber Lahmar and Lakhdar Boumediene, were not released because they do not have Bosnian citizenship. Should they also be returned to Bosnia, they would be transferred to the extradition prison. Lahmar never had Bosnian citizenship, residing in Bosnia with permanent residence permit, while Bosnian authorities stripped Boumediene of his after saying he had given false information when he applied.

The Bosnian government’s decision to accept the three was strongly opposed by the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s anti-terror unit and the Bosnian Security Agency (OSA), both of which claim that all six represents a danger for the country’s security.

A year and half ago, the opposition Social-Democratic Party (SDP) – which was in power at the time the Algerian six were sent to Guantanamo – drafted a proposal for the return of Guantanamo prisoners. The draft was passed in the state parliament and delivered to the government for finalization, but has since stalled.

Under the draft bill, Bosnian authorities guarantee that any returnees from Guantanamo do not present a potential threat to Bosnian or US interests. However, the Bosnian government is in no position to provide such guarantees, as the OSA report pointed out, especially considering the fact that the members of the Algerian Group have been held for nearly seven years under harsh and inhumane conditions, making them ripe for terror recruitment.

Leaked investigator report proves that probe which cleared bragging detainee abusers in Guantanamo Bay was a sham

Read more about it here.

In this context the ruling of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that the DoD may withhold from the associated Press certain documents relating to investigations of detainee abuse at Guantanamo is rather worrying. In his opinion, Judge Peter Hall held that the detainees have a privacy interest in their identifying information and that the AP failed to show how the disclosure of the information would serve the public interest:

We find that disclosing the family members’ names and addresses to the AP, and consequently to the public at large, involves a measurable privacy interest because the information that would be revealed by disclosure is the type of information that a person would ordinarily not wish to make known about himself or herself. …

We conclude that the public interest in evaluating whether DOD properly followed-up on the detainees’ claims of mistaken identity have been adequately served by the disclosure of the redacted information and that disclosing names and addresses of the family members would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of the family members’ privacy interest because such disclosure would not shed any light on DOD’s action in connection with the detainees’ claims at issue here.

More at Jurist.

3 Responses

  1. Have the families of detainees been notified that their family members are being detained? When I last heard, that information was being withheld from families. If that is true, the United States Government had “disappeared” people.

  2. […] This week, the American media in an uproar as Obama actually tries to make good on his campaign promise and close Gitmo, is stirring up the American public by broadcasting fears that Obama is going to release what is left of some 200 detainees into American society. Suddenly, Americans who demanded closure of Gitmo and denounced waterboarding and other means of torture used by the Bush administration are demanding that Camp Gitmo remain open. A US Federal Judge ruled government properly holding two Guantanamo detainees […]

  3. I do not believe that most citizens in the usa wants the bush years of treason and torture to continue. the federal judge should be properly charged with TREASON in the usa and sentenced to life by the international court of justice for crimes against justice. and bush and chaney should be indicted as war criminal. kidnapping and murders, tortures of countless young and old men, women and childern without safe guards against terrorist like this nazi federal judge and demonic bush and chaney must be punished . and all civil and moral minded and constitutionalist in the usa should overthrow the federal regime, as stated in the declaration of independence as your patriotic duty. nothing will happen as most citizens are terrorized by the state and federal police terrorist in the the usa. did bush and maddog chaney cause911…. cowards are always punished, and gangster evil empires are always destroyed, but millions of innocent lives are wasted in this evil mix. end gitmo and the insanity caused by nazi federal judges and put the lot of them in gitmo for treason. read the federalist papers, whom created your constitution. or, dont complain if you end up as one of the 21million citizens lock away in thousands of nazi jails/prisons or on the run. the usa does not have fair and honorable courts, they are the disgrace of the free world, thanks a lot fot nazi unfair and unbalanced fox news idiots. thats my take whats yours…..respectfully submitted, marcos cutino latin america

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