Kiyemba II, again

D.C. Circuit Court judges have issued orders requiring that Guantanamo detainees not be transferred for at least 30 days after the detainee’s lawyer is notified of the possible transfer.  The Circuit Court asked lawyers for 31 Guantanamo detainees to respond to a request by the Department of Justice to vacate those orders.  In two filings this week by the detainee’s lawyers addressed this issue.  The first asked the full Circuit Court to overrule Kiyemba II.  In the second filing, the lawyers asked the Circuit Court not to vacate any of the transfer-notice orders until after the plea for en banc review had been resolved.

Behind the continuing challenges to “Kiyemba II” lies another goal of detainees’ lawyers: to persuade the Supreme Court to pare down a 2008 ruling by the Justices, in the case of Munaf v. Geren, that has been interpreted very broadly by the D.C. Circuit in curtailing what federal judges can do about Guantanamo prisoners’ fear of being sent to countries where they would be at risk of torture or death.  In July, three Justices indicated that there are “important questions” about judges’ powers that did not get resolved in Munaf.  Those questions are what detainees’ attorneys want to get back before the Supreme Court at some point.  The Munaf case, dealing with prisoners held by the U.S. military in Iraq, had nothing directly to do with Guantanamo detainees — until the D.C. Circuit started applying it to them last year.

The fight against terrorism in Yemen

The White House is allegedly considering adding the CIA’s armed Predator drones to the fight against al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen. The idea is to reassign some of the Predator drones already hunting high-value militant targets in Pakistan’s tribal regions to the U.S. special operations forces assisting local counterterrorist forces in Yemen.

But U.S. officials may have a hard time selling the concept to the Yemeni government in Sanaa, where reports of the potential use of drones has already touched off controversy.

Drones would be a “nonstarter,” Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations told the AP earlier this year.
“To even posit this theory about U.S. drones only builds support for radicalization,” Abdullah al-Saidi said at the time. “Yemen will not allow it.”

Meantime, Amnesty International criticized (JURIST) methods used by the government of Yemen in counter-terror operations as violations of human rights. In a report, “Yemen: Cracking Down Under Pressure,” the rights group accused the government of perpetrating numerous human right abuses in attempting to quell the rebel movements of the Zaidi Shi’a in the north and the Southern Movement, in addition to its US-sponsored actions against al Qaeda.

These alleged abuses include arbitrary arrests, torture, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances (already denounced in 2008 by Human Rights Watch), among other actions taken by security forces. These forces, according to AI, are accountable only to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The report also cited the rising number of executions in the country after convictions for links to al Qaeda or the rebel movements. AI also pointed to the actions of the US and Saudi Arabia in promoting these actions by Yemeni authorities following the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 in December.
AI went on to criticize the role of the special counter-terrorism courts that have been used by Yemeni authorities to convict journalists and opposition figures critical of the government.

U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center Law of War materials

The following recently released documents—The Law of War Deskbook, Law of War Documentary Supplement (old version here) , and Operational Law Handbook —represent the broad range of international and operational law subjects taught to military judge advocates by the International and Operational Law Department of The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School (TJAGLCS), Charlottesville, VA.

The department provides basic and graduate courses in such diverse subjects as the law of war, the legal basis for the use of force among states, rules of engagement, status of forces and other international agreements, intelligence law, domestic support operations, detainee operations, interrogation operations, information operations, and comparative law.  Issued by the department, these documents are not “official” publications, but are intended for instructional convenience for the military judge advocate student as well as an introduction to the law and to the primary sources of that law.

Russia’s counter-terrorism policy

Time Magazine asks a good question:

Whose approach works better? If Western democracies are struggling to reconcile openness with vigilance, does the freer hand of the Kremlin, whose rule is closer to autocracy, give it an advantage in fighting its war on terrorism?

While the magazine doesn’t really answer the question, it gives us somem indications as to what the answer can be. It quotes security analyst Andrei Soldatov who says that xenophobia among officials is “the biggest problem” in the war on terrorism. “Law enforcement intimidates the North Caucasians all the time. There’s no trust,” he says. “But if you want to fight terrorism, you have to work closely with those communities.”

After the metro bombings, massive ground operations were carried out in select Dagestani villages. Details are sketchy, but the local authorities are said to have used overwhelming force. Journalist Yulia Yuzik was there and said that in one raid, police simply blew up a house with two wanted men inside instead of apprehending them.there was a media blackout on the offensive, and most Russians paid little attention to what was happening in the mountains. “People forget they are living in a country at war,” says Andrey Cherkasov, of the human-rights group Memorial. Nor were lawmakers especially keen to know what was going on. Among the “reforms” suggested by the Russian parliament right after the bombings was a proposition to crack down on any media outlet that quoted Umarov or gave him a platform in any way.

The Kremlin’s brute counterterrorism tactics are rooted largely in the fact that there is little free press or political opposition to hold it accountable for the deaths of civilians.

Each terrorist attack, in fact, has been used as a pretext for even more Kremlin control. The Beslan crisis, for example, was blamed on local authorities, and since then there have been no regional elections; all governors are now loyal Kremlin appointees. Two months after the March 29 attacks, the parliament approved a broad expansion of Russia’s counterintelligence services, giving them the right to deliver warnings to people who haven’t committed a crime but are viewed as potential criminals or terrorists.

It is left to the country’s beleaguered human-rights groups to collect eyewitness accounts in order to find out what’s happening in Dagestan. Memorial, which started out cataloging the past abuses of the Soviet system, is now the main voice for victims of Kremlin-sponsored violence in places like Dagestan and Chechnya. The organization’s Cherkasov reckons that in all, at least 3,000 civilians have disappeared–largely at the hands of Kremlin-backed security forces–since the end of the second Chechen war in 2000.

Russia’s war on terrorism is essentially a civil war. “Our Afghanistan is inside Russia” is how Lipman puts it.

The writer makes an interesting observation:

At a huge Moscow rally organized by Nashi, a pro-Kremlin youth group, 65,000 young Russians were bused in from all over the country to celebrate victory–not in the war on terrorism but in World War II.The authoritarian overtones of the rally, where everyone wore matching faux-military T-shirts and had been issued replica Kalashnikov cartridges, were chilling. But there was an added component, an orderliness that was breathtaking for Russia: 65,000 teenagers and not one of them smoking or drinking. It reminded me of the allure of the Wahhabi extremists who recruit young people in Dagestan: in a chaotic and muddy land, the clean-swept mosques and confident composure of the Wahhabi leaders is a tremendous sales pitch.

Other countries probe Bush-era torture, not U.S.

The Miami Herald has a story on on how countries that once backed former President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism are carrying out their own investigations of the alleged U.S. torture program and the role that their governments played in it.

“As a result of the passage of time and the frustration of victims … there’s a movement to see what legal options exist outside the United States,” said James Goldston, the executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, a legal project of George Soros’ Open Society Institute, who’s helped represent El-Masri.

The trend, although it’s slow-moving and involves disparate plaintiffs, forums and legal strategies, could represent the end of a reviled chapter of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, which ensnared hundreds of detainees with the clandestine cooperation of dozens of countries. Now, some of those countries, led by new governments or under pressure from their citizens, are trying to pry open those secrets.

According to the article, the Obama administration makes it difficult for lawyers in some cases to question witnesses or gather evidence, according to experts involved in the inquiries.

In Lithuania, a criminal investigation of a former intelligence chief who allegedly helped the CIA operate secret prisons is stalled partly because U.S. officials haven’t revealed the identities of detainees who were held there.

Guantanamo and UK case law

The UK Human Rights blog reviewed CRG Murray’s article “The Ripple Effect: Guantanamo Bay in the United Kingdom Courts.”  Murray analyzes British case law resulting from claims made by people who had been held at Guantanamo. 

The human rights abuses suffered by detainees held at Guantánamo Bay have dominated many of the cases before the United Kingdom’s courts. The Human Rights Act of 1998, still relatively new to the statute book, played a central role in the detainees’ arguments. The ultimate court decisions, however, often relegate such factors to the background of the case. This article examines why the deciding courts declined to develop the law of diplomatic protection on the basis of human rights concerns, and why such arguments continue to be employed by detainees. Furthermore, the article assesses why the English courts have shown greater receptiveness to arguments similarly grounded in accusations of inhuman and degrading treatment in relation to later cases involving former detainees challenging the role of the British Government in their detention.

Read the review here or the full article here.

German man faces terrorism charges in US plot over GPS procurement

German prosecutors say they have charged a man with membership in a group that plotted to attack U.S. targets in the European country. Prosecutors announced Monday the man identified only as Salih S. was charged Aug. 12 with supporting a terrorist organization and membership in a terrorist organization.

They say the German citizen is alleged to be a member of the radical Islamic Jihad Union who trained at a terrorist camp in Pakistan. He was first arrested in 2008 in Turkey and extradited in July.

Salih S. is accused of procuring GPS devices, night vision goggles and other items for Adem Yilmaz

Yilmaz was convicted with three others earlier this year of plotting a thwarted attack that a judge said could have killed large numbers of U.S. soldiers and civilians.

Causes of radicalisation in Yemen

The Guardian spent two months in  Yemen, travelling to the tribal regions of Abyan and Shabwa, where al-Qaida has set up shop and where suspected US drone attacks have killed scores of civilians and few insurgents. Speaking to jihadis, security officials and tribesmen, it became clear how a combination of government alliances, bribes, broken promises and bungled crackdowns has allowed Islamists to flourish and led to the emergence of the country as a regional hub for al-Qaida.

al-Qaeda fighters take limited role in Afghan insurgency

Although U.S. officials have often said that al-Qaeda is a marginal player on the Afghan battlefield, an analysis of 76,000 classified U.S. military reports by the Washington Post underscores the extent to which Osama bin Laden and his network have become an afterthought in the war.

The reports, which cover the escalation of the insurgency between 2004 and the end of 2009, mention al-Qaeda only a few dozen times and even then just in passing. Most are vague references to people with unspecified al-Qaeda contacts or sympathies, or as shorthand for an amorphous ideological enemy.

In June, CIA Director Leon Panetta estimated that, “at most,” only 50 to 100 al-Qaeda operatives were present in Afghanistan. His assessment echoed those given by other senior U.S. officials. In October, national security adviser James L. Jones said the U.S. government’s “maximum estimate” was that al-Qaeda had fewer than 100 members in Afghanistan, with no bases and “no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.”

Radicalisation in Kenya

The Washington Post has an interesting article on Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood, where the Somali immigrant community lives. Eastleigh, community leaders say, is an ideal breeding ground for radicalism. The neighborhood is poor and isolated; few Kenyans enter it. Local authorities have ignored it: Roads are unpaved, muddy and covered with trash. The smell of raw sewage wafts across the terrain. Radical preachers are filling the void, playing a key role in recruiting and fundraising for al-Shabab. They operate the largest mosques in the neighborhood, providing ideological leadership and a resource base for militants, according to a U.N. report on Somalia in April.

Kenyan police have long harassed Somalis, demanding bribes under threat of arrest or deportation, generating resentment. Since the Kampala attacks, police have rounded up hundreds of people in Eastleigh and other areas, including four Kenyan Muslims who human rights activists say were illegally extradited to Uganda for interrogation.

Related NY Times article on how al Shabab is increasingly looking like the Taliban.