Tag Archives: Guantánamo Bay

DoD: Man Held at Guantanamo for 13 Years was ‘Case of Mistaken Identity’

Department of Defense officials admitted on Monday that a man who has been held in the United States prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the last 13 years as a suspected al-Qaeda trainer, was held due to a case of mistaken identity.

Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri, 37, has been held as an indefinite detainee at Gitmo since 2002, despite the fact that he was never charged and prosecutors lacked adequate evidence for a trial.

During a panel meeting on Tuesday to evaluate whether al-Shamiri can be released, officials admitted he was actually a low-level Islamist foot soldier from Yemen who was taken into custody because he was confused with someone with a similar name.

[RELATED: Guantanamo Bay: An Untold History of Occupation, Torture, Sham Trials & Resistance]

In the DoD’s detainee profile on al-Shamiri, referred to as YM-434, it said he “fought in several jihadist theaters and associated with al-Qaida members in Afghanistan,” but also said he did not carry out the terrorist acts that were the basis of his detainment.

[pull_quote_center]It was previously assessed that YM-434 also was an al-Qaida facilitator or courier, as well as a trainer, but we now judge that these activities were carried out by other known extremists with names or aliases similar to YM-434’s.[/pull_quote_center]

In a statement from al-Shamiri’s personal representative, he was described as “cooperative, enthusiastic and supportive,” and his rep noted that he “does have remorse for choosing the wrong path early in life.”

The statement also said al-Shamiri “wants to make a life for himself,” and he is “aware that Yemen is not an option, and he is willing to go to any country that will accept him.”

[RELATD: Judge Orders Release of Guantanamo Force-Feeding Videos]

President Obama, who has promised to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay on numerous occasions, rejected a plan to relocate the prison to U.S. soil, labeling it as too expensive with a price tag of over $600 million, and sent it back for revision.

Obama Administration Continues to Fight Release of Gitmo Force Feeding Videos

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler denied a request from the Obama Administration which sought to reverse a previous ruling by Kessler that ordered the release of videos showing the force-feeding of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.

The Washington Post reports that Judge Kessler called the abuse of prisoners being held without charges a “burning, controversial issue in this country.” In October 2014, Kessler ruled that the Obama Administration must unseal 32 video tapes related to the force-feeding of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who was then being held without charge at the military prison in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba.

Dhiab was kidnapped by the Pakistani government in 2002 before being handed over to the United States on suspicion of terrorism. At the end of 2014, after twelve years behind bars with no trial, Abu Wa’el Dhiab was finally released to Uruguay. The violence and forced-feeding procedures have caused permanent damage to his health and he is now confined to a wheelchair.

[RELATED: Navy Nurse Refuses To Force-Feed Guantanamo Bay Prisoner]

The videos in question show Dhiab subjected to violent “forced cell extraction” and forced-feeding. The forced-feeding sessions began after he refused to eat. Dhiab’s lawyers allege that he was subject to this process over 1,300 times. He had been protesting his treatment and conditions at the prison by participating in a hunger strike which at one point had spread to 100 detainees in the facility.

Although the government requested Judge Kessler reconsider her decision, The Post reports “edited versions of eight of 32 videos and two compilation videos of Dhiab, with information such as the voices and faces of prison workers redacted” have been handed over.

“The importance of releasing the videotapes to the public in order to ‘enlighten the citizenry’ and ‘improve perceptions of the proceeding’s fairness,’ cannot be overstated,” stated Judge Kessler.

Kessler’s nine-page order stated the government had not offered evidence to support their claims that releasing the classified videos would somehow endanger the national security of the United States. Judge Kessler has clashed with the government’s attorneys throughout the case.

[RELATED: Federal Judge Challenges Obama’s Use of Executive Order to Hide Gitmo Videos]

The Obama administration is expected to appeal once more before the tapes are officially released to the public. The administration previously attempted to use Executive Order 13,526 (which governs the Executive Branch’s classification of national security information) to deny the release of the tapes. Judge Kessler said it “would displace the court’s power to seal its own record, putting that authority in the government’s hands alone.” She also stated, “the judiciary has the discretion to seal or unseal a judicial record.”

The government had previously argued that the release of any footage of the force-feeding “provides the enemy with opportunity to search for weaknesses and vulnerabilities.” When President Obama attempted to seal the videos, several news organizations came together in opposition of such a move, including ABC News, Associated Press, First Look Media, Guardian, McClatchy, NPR, New York Times and Reuters.

Judge Kessler sided with the organizations and Dhiab. Kessler called the governments arguments “unacceptably vague, speculative,” and “plain implausible.” She stated that:

“It is our responsibility, as judges, as part of our obligation under the Constitution, to ensure that any efforts to limit our First Amendment protections are scrutinized with the greatest of care. That responsibility can not be ignored or abdicated.”

The government has also attempted to keep the hearings away from the public eye, but, once again, Judge Kessler intervened. Judge Kessler ruled that the U.S. government could not close the hearing and called the efforts by the Department of Justice “deeply troubling.” Even more telling is the fact that during those hearings the government was not able to get a single witness to testify in favor of the forced-feeding practices.

The whole force-feeding debacle is yet another example of the lies of the Obama Administration and the dangers of government. The entire history of the Guantanamo Bay military prison is a disturbing view into how the American Empire views it’s enemies.

We have been taught to see foreign human beings as less than, or deserving of the punishment dealt by an increasingly totalitarian government. We cannot allow this to go on any longer. It’s time for all liberty loving, awakened Americans to stand up to the injustices of the U.S. government.

BROZE: Obama Vetoes 2016 Defense Budget Bill

President Obama used his veto power on Thursday to reject the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016. The NDAA is the annual military budget and has recently been the subject of much debate.

Critics, including Obama, say the bill would limit the transfer of detainees from the military prison at Guantamano Bay, Cuba to the United States. As a result of the veto the White House has said they will use an emergency overseas contingency operations account to cover the shortfall until an agreement is reached.

“The president believes that the men and women who serve in our armed forces deserve adequate and responsible funding, not through a gimmick or not through a slush fund but one that would — could withstand scrutiny,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.

President Obama is calling for non-defense and defense spending limits to be raised while the majority of Republicans want to raise limits for defense but not for non-defense spending. President Obama seeks to raise both areas to around $38 billion.

Just days before the veto Senator John McCain criticized the president. “It is a dangerous move for [Obama] to veto the NDAA. We need 21st-century weapons, not last century,” McCain said.

Obama has also stated that he opposes limits on how to transfer Guantanamo prisoners. One of the early promises of Obama’s presidential campaign was shutting down the infamous prison. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 657 prisoners have been transferred while 9 have died.

Despite President Obama’s current posturing, he had no problem signing the NDAA in 2012 which legalized the indefinite detention of American citizens suspected of ties to terrorism. Without a doubt Guantanamo Bay is a despicable prison and needs to be shut down. Many of the detainees have been cleared of any wrong doing yet remain imprisoned without a trial.

However, when you look closer at what Obama is doing, you see he is actually voting in line with the rest of the war hawks. He is not demanding the military budget be cut, or that the United States begin winding down the global American empire. No, President Obama is simply asking for more money to continue to launch wars of aggression based on lies and fear.

There is one more problem with the NDAA 2016 that will not be covered by the corporate media. The current edition of the NDAA will continue to involve the United States in the conflict in eastern Ukraine by offering lethal aid to the Ukrainians fighting off Russia’s advances in Crimea.

Section 1251 of the Senate version of the bill authorizes the Department of Defense to “provide security assistance and intelligence support to military and other security forces of the government of Ukraine.”

Section 1253 “requires DOD to report to Congress on options for expanding the presence of U.S. ground forces of the size of a Brigade Combat Team in Eastern Europe to respond to the security challenges posed by Russia and increase the combat capability of forces able to respond to unconventional or hybrid warfare tactics such as those used by the Russian Federation in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.”

Section 1532 of the House bill gives the DOD permission to “provide assistance and sustainment to the military and national security forces of Ukraine through FY2016, including providing lethal weapons of a defensive nature to the security forces of Ukraine.”

So while the media focuses on the battle between the White House and the Republicans, take note that all of the current versions of the NDAA 2016 will continue the proxy-war between the United States and Russia, and possibly accelerate the push towards outright conflict.

US Releases Six Guantánamo Detainees Accepted By Uruguay

The Defense Department announced that six Guantánamo Bay detainees who had been cleared for release several years ago were transferred to Uruguay over the weekend.

The detainees released were 32-year-old Ali Husain Shaaban, 37-year-old Ahmed Adnan Ajuri, 39-year-old Abdelahdi Faraj, 35-year-old Mohammed Abdullah Taha Mattan, 49-year-old Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi, and 43-year-old Abu Wa’el Dhiab.

Dhiab’s story, previously covered by Benswann.com, attracted significant national attention surrounding the prison’s treatment of detainees due to a lawsuit he had filed with help from human rights organization Reprieve challenging force-feeding practices at the prison.

Dhiab had been imprisoned at Guantánamo since 2002 despite the fact that no charges were brought against him and he was cleared for release in 2009.

Dhiab protested his time spent at Guantánamo by declaring a hunger strike that resulted in repeated forced feedings. Attorneys for Dhiab claimed that the feedings were causing substantial suffering, and a press release from Reprieve stated that he was denied access to his wheelchair and “brutally dragged from his cell and force-fed against his will every day.” A Navy nurse who had been force-feeding Dhiab revolted against the procedure and refused to continue, calling it a “criminal act”.

The legal battle challenging his treatment resulted in over a dozen media outlets including the New York Times and Associated Press pressing for the release of videotapes documenting Dhiab’s forced feedings.

In October, United States District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered those tapes to be unsealed, dismissing the federal government’s argument that publicizing the videos would compromise national security. The Obama administration appealed Kessler’s ruling on December 2nd.

An agreement between the United States and Uruguayan President Jose Mujica regarding transfer of the detainees was reached early this year, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel received criticism from Obama administration officials for allowing the agreement to remain on his desk for months without signing it and waiting until July to inform Congress that he was approving it.

“We are very grateful to Uruguay for this important humanitarian action, and to President Mujica for his strong leadership in providing a home for individuals who cannot return to their own countries,”said State Department envoy Cliff Sloan. “The support we are receiving from our friends and allies is critical to achieving our shared goal of closing Guantánamo.”

According to the New York Times, the Obama administration expects that if Guantánamo’s prison population is reduced to under 100 detainees Congress may overturn a law that prohibits them from being held on American soil, signaling a potential initiative to actually close Guantánamo.

US government acknowledges it “crossed the line” on torture

For many years, the US government has said it respects, protects, and promotes human rights here at home and all over the world.  However, the US admitted to the UN Committee on Torture that after 9/11, abuses had occurred during the “War on Terror.”

The US legal adviser Mary McLeod spoke to the ten member committee saying, according to the Raw Story, “In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we regrettably did not always live up to our own values… we crossed the line and we take responsibility for that.”

After this, the committee began to ask the 30 top US officials present for the hearing, various questions regarding how the US planned to amend and atone for these acknowledged abuses.

Some of these questions revolved around Guantanamo Bay.  The committee asked the US delegates why the prison was still open after saying it would be closed and when the US government plans on shutting down the prison for good.

The delegates were also questioned on the Abu Ghraib prison incident and the lack of redress for the victims.

McLeod responded by saying, according to ABC News, “As President Obama has acknowledged, we crossed the line and we take responsibility for that… The United States has taken important steps to ensure adherence to its legal obligations.”

Amnesty International previously submitted evidence of human rights abuses to the UN Committee on Torture, outlining various violations US personnel are responsible for.  The method of water-boarding and secret detention of captives were two methods mentioned on this list.

From here, the UN questions moved from international torture to torture at home.

They questioned the delegates how the government justifies the detention of non-violent, non-criminal illegal immigrants, specifically children.  The disproportionate levels of police brutality in cases involving minorities were also brought into question.

The committee plans to publish its conclusions concerning torture and the US government on November 28.

Judge Orders Release Of Guantanamo Force-Feeding Videos

United States District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered videotapes exhibiting the force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab to be unsealed.

The order stated “In short, it is our responsibility, as judges, as part of our obligation under the Constitution, to ensure that any efforts to limit our First Amendment protections are scrutinized with the greatest of care. That responsibility can not be ignored or abdicated.”

Kessler’s order on Friday disregarded the federal government’s argument that releasing the videos could compromise national security. The government warned that the videos would expose the prison’s architecture and the identities of guards that perform the force feedings. In Kessler’s order, she specified that the videos would redacted to protect the identities of all individuals other than Dhiab. “It strains credulity to conclude that release of these videos has a substantial probability of causing the harm the Government predicts,” Kessler stated in the order.

Several media outlets became involved in seeking the release of the videotapes. Dhiab encouraged the media’s interest in the videos and has said that he wants as many people as possible to witness the actions in the tapes. “I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today, so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed. If the American people stand for freedom, they should watch these tapes. If they truly believe in human rights, they need to see these tapes,” Dhiab said in a statement that was included in Kessler’s order.

Cori Crider, an attorney for Dhiab who works for the human rights group Reprieve, said “It is high time the bright light of the truth was shone on Guantanamo’s force-feeding practices. It has always been the height of hypocrisy for the Guantanamo authorities to take media groups on ‘show tours’, while forbidding them from talking to prisoners or seeing evidence like this, which shows the grim reality of life at the prison. I look forward to the day when this evidence is made public, and I believe the outcry that results will hasten the close of Guantanamo Bay.”

Kessler’s order is the most recent course of action involving Dhiab’s protest against his detainment. Dhiab has been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for over a decade, and despite being cleared for release in 2009 he remains at the facility. His attempts at hunger striking in protest have been obstructed by force-feeding, and he has filed suit to stop them. In July, a nurse refused to continue performing Dhiab’s feedings, calling it a “criminal act”.

A preliminary hearing for Dhiab’s ongoing case is scheduled for today.

Navy Nurse Refuses To Force-Feed Guantanamo Bay Prisoner

Described as the first known instance of rebellion against Guantánamo Bay’s enteral force-feeding policy, a Navy nurse refused to continue force-feeding hunger-striking prisoners.

The incident was revealed after Guantánamo prisoner Abu Wael Dhiab called his lawyer, Cori Crider of British legal defense group Reprieve, to inform her that a male nurse had suddenly refused to continue force-feeding him and other inmates earlier this month, sometime before the Fourth Of July. Dhiab said that the nurse declared, “I have come to the decision that I refuse to participate in this criminal act.”

Dhiab also said he was informed by the nurse “before we came here, we were told a different story. The story we were told was completely the opposite of what I saw.” The identity of the nurse is unknown at this time, but Dhiab described him as a Latino around 40 years of age.

Crider applauded the rebellion of the nurse: “This is a historic stand by this nurse, who recognized the basic humanity of the detainees and the inhumanity of what he was being asked to do. He should be commended. He should also be permitted to continue to give medical care to prisoners on the base but exempted from a practice he rightly sees as a violation of medical ethics.”

Navy Capt. Tom Gresback confirmed the incident but offered no additional details. “There was a recent instance of a medical provider not willing to carry out the enteral feeding of a detainee,” he stated. “The matter is in the hands of the individual’s leadership.”

Dhiab is currently in a federal court battle to end forced tube-feeding. He was arrested without charges in Pakistan and turned over to US authorities in 2002 before his imprisonment at Guantánamo. He was cleared to be released in 2009, but instead has been remained in the facility for nearly 13 years.