detention

Guantánamo nurse refuses to force-feed detainees

A nurse at the Guantánamo detention center has refused to participate in the force-feeding of hunger-striking inmates, UK human rights group Reprieve reported July 15. Word of the unidentified nurse's refusal came via a phone call from detainee Abu Wael Dhiab to his lawyer at Reprieve and was confirmed to the Miami Herald by a Department of Defense (DoD) spokesperson, who declined to provide further details. According to Reprieve, this is the first instance of a conscientious objecting to the force-feeding of prisoners since a mass hunger strike began last year. As for the nurse, the DoD spokesperson said "the matter is now in the hands of the individual's leadership."

Convictions of ex-Qaeda media director overturned

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on July 14 overturned two out of three convictions of Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul, media secretary of Osama Bin Laden. The court vacated Bahlul's convictions for providing material support for terrorism and solicitation of others to commit war crimes but did not overturn his conviction for conspiracy to commit terrorism, remanding that issue to the Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR). A three-judge panel of the appeals court had ruled last year that the military tribunal that convicted 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 said the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006 codified conspiracy as a war crime, but did not apply to crimes committed before the MCA was passed. The en banc court disagreed, ruling "that the 2006 MCA is unambiguous in its intent to authorize retroactive prosecution for the crimes enumerated in the statute—regardless of their pre-existing law-of-war status." Nonetheless, the court vacated the other two convictions, concluding that trying Bahlul by military commission for providing material support was "a plain ex post facto violation," and that "solicitation of others to commit war crimes is plainly not an offense traditionally triable by military commission." The new ruling could result in a reduction of Bahlul's life sentence.

Gitmo detainees file motion for religious freedom

Lawyers for Guantánamo Bay detainees on July 2 filed an emergency application (PDF) in the US District Court for the District of Columbia  for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the government from depriving the inmates of the right to pray communally during the month of Ramadan. Lawyers for petitioner Imad Abdullah Hassan have already applied (PDF) for a preliminary injunction, now pending, that alleges that prohibiting the detainees from prayer violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The emergency application was filed following the US Supreme Court's recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. Hassan argues that the decision in Hobby Lobby, which held that for-profit corporations can deny coverage of contraception costs because of their religious beliefs, overrules the district court's prior decision in Rasul v. Myers. In that case the court held that the Guantánamo Bay detainees are not protected "persons" within the meaning of the RFRA. Thus, the motion argues that "a nonresident alien Guantanamo Bay detainee, who inarguably has constitutional rights in what is de facto sovereign US territory...must also enjoy the protections extended by the RFRA."

Appeals court revives Abu Ghraib torture suit

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled (PDF) July 1 that the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia erred in concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over a case of alleged torture in the Abu Ghraib prison because the alleged abuses occurred in Iraq. The case was brought in 2009 by four plaintiffs against military contractor CACI International Inc, accusing the company of crimes against humanity, sexual assault, torture and other violations at Abu Ghraib prison. Applying the fact-based inquiry articulated by the US Supreme Court in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, the court held that the plaintiffs' claims "touch and concern" the territory of the US with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Statute. The court did not reach the conclusion, however, that the issue was not a political question and thus remanded the case to the district court to undertake factual development of the record to make that determination.

Appeals court dismisses Gitmo detainee lawsuit

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on June 10 dismissed (PDF) a lawsuit brought by a former Guantánamo detainee against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. According to the original complaint (PDF), the plaintiff, Sami Abdulaziz Allaithi, was an Egyptian professor working in Kabul teaching English. When the US started its bombing campaign, the plaintiff fled to Pakistan, was captured and then transferred to the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp where he claims he was tortured and prevented from practicing his religion. This treatment continued even though he was classified as a non-enemy combatant by the Department of Defense's Combatant Status Review Tribunal until he was released. In the opinion, written by Judge Janice Rodgers Brown, the court held that, "[t]he now-settled law reveals several flaws and inadequacies of the Appellants' complaint. ... In response, counsel invites us to remand this case to allow them an opportunity to rectify whatever mistakes lie in their pleadings... We cannot."

Israeli doctors refuse to force-feed hunger strikers

Doctors in Israel are refusing to back proposed legislation that would allow Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike to be force-fed. The bill, proposed by the Home Front Defense Ministry, comes as at least 65 of the 290 striking detainees have been hospitalized since they stopped eating on April 24. The legislation would empower judges to sanction force-feeding if a detainee's life is perceived to be in danger. But the Israel Medical Association is urging physicians not to cooperate in the practice. "It goes against the DNA of the doctors to force treatment on a patient," said the IMA's Ziva Miral. "Force-feeding is torture, and we can't have doctors participating in torture."

DoD approves war crimes trial for Qaeda leader

The US Department of Defense on June 2 approved the war crimes trial of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi (BBC profile), a leader of al-Qaeda's armed forces between 2002 and 2004. The former CIA captive has been held at Guantánamo Bay since 2007. The official charge sheet (PDF) alleges, among other things, that al-Hadi was a superior commander for al-Qaeda and that he and his operatives killed multiple US service members and attacked a US military medical helicopter with rocket-propelled grenades and firearms. Prosecutors also allege that al-Hadi funded and oversaw all of al-Qaeda's operations against US and allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2002 to 2004, and that he directed his forces to use various unlawful means, such as attacking civilians and detonating car bombs in civilian areas.

US POW released in exchange for Gitmo detainees

US President Barack Obama announced May 31 that prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl had been released into US custody in exchange for five detainees held at Guantánamo Bay. Bergdahl was the only confirmed US prisoner of war from the conflict in Afghanistan remaining in enemy custody. The Obama administration brokered the deal for Bergdahl's exchange through the Qatari government; once Bergdahl was secured, five high-profile Guantánamo Bay detainees, including the former head of the Taliban army, were transferred to Qatar. Republicans in the US Senate and House of Representatives criticized the exchange, which had been conducted in violation of a law requiring the president to notify Congress 30 days before any detainees are transferred from Guantanamo bay (PDF). The Obama administration maintains that the provision of the law requiring the notification is an unconstitutional violation on his rights as Commander-in-Chief (signing statement, PDF).

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