CAGE https://www.cage.ngo Empowering communities impacted by the War on Terror Fri, 15 Feb 2019 09:37:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 https://www.cage.ngo/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/cropped-Screen-Shot-2015-07-14-at-01.30.16-32x32.png CAGE https://www.cage.ngo 32 32 Shamima Begum should return home for counsel by her community: CAGE https://www.cage.ngo/shamima-begum-should-return-home-for-counsel-by-her-community-cage https://www.cage.ngo/shamima-begum-should-return-home-for-counsel-by-her-community-cage#respond Fri, 15 Feb 2019 09:37:04 +0000 https://www.cage.ngo/?p=25598 London - British citizen Shamima Begum should be allowed to return to Britain and we encourage the authorities to lead with a policy of non-politicised counsel, not punishment. Her case illustrates that the rule of law and due process are universal legal principles that cannot be compromised. Initially the Met Police assured the three Bethnal

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London – British citizen Shamima Begum should be allowed to return to Britain and we encourage the authorities to lead with a policy of non-politicised counsel, not punishment.

Her case illustrates that the rule of law and due process are universal legal principles that cannot be compromised.

Initially the Met Police assured the three Bethnal Green girls who left, that they would not face prosecution upon return. Should Shamima be charged, a fair trial must determine, with clarity, the events leading up to her decision to leave to ISIS territory.

There can be no doubts about the brutality of ISIS and the horrors suffered by those who crossed their path. However if we are to retain our humanity every returnee must be afforded a fair hearing, so that we can begin the difficult steps needed to heal our communities.

Moazzam Begg, outreach director for CAGE, said:

“I was in Syria in 2012-13 investigating UK and US roles in the rendition programme with Syria. I met people who later joined ISIS and I tried to stop their abuses of prisoners. Isis went on to execute some of my friends. That is one reason I have opposed and deplored ISIS from the outset.”

“However, I was also imprisoned in Guantanamo with young teens who paid the terrible price of childish decisions. That is why I believe Shamima Begum must be properly assessed for security risks but ultimately returned to the UK and counselled in the right direction to learn and acknowledge just how much the organisation she joined deviated from the basic principles of Islam and brought misery to the world.”

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)

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More terror laws passed normalising a state of emergency, online censorship and extending PREVENT https://www.cage.ngo/more-terror-laws-passed-normalising-a-state-of-emergency-online-censorship-and-extending-prevent https://www.cage.ngo/more-terror-laws-passed-normalising-a-state-of-emergency-online-censorship-and-extending-prevent#respond Tue, 12 Feb 2019 16:40:57 +0000 https://www.cage.ngo/?p=25587 London - Four years to the day since the passing of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, the Government has passed yet another counter-terrorism law, The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act. The Act will significantly increase the reach of the security apparatus in public and private life. We have warned previously, including in our

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London – Four years to the day since the passing of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, the Government has passed yet another counter-terrorism law, The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act. The Act will significantly increase the reach of the security apparatus in public and private life. We have warned previously, including in our in our submissions to parliament that War on Terror values are increasingly being pushed in to the domestic sphere.

Notably, the media spotlight has been shifted away from the main passage of the bill, and towards the much touted PREVENT ‘independent review’ now included as part of it, in order to shield and distract the public from the serious implications of the new law.

They key issues of concern in the Act include:

  • New and broader terror-related offences and longer prison sentences;
  • Widening the scope of surveillance and intelligence-gathering outside the sphere of crime, with new powers to stop, search and detain individuals without suspicion;
  • Securitising the public sector, by further co-opting local authorities into PREVENT;
  • Building consent from the public for the wholesale regulation of the online space.
  • Enabling the state to prosecute where there is an absence of  evidence of actual ‘terror’ related activity as with the new designated areas offence.

Asim Qureshi, CAGE Research Director said:

“These terror laws are about control and silencing dissent. As we have consistently highlighted, counter-terror legislations are a danger to all of society, when in place, they are used to curb the activities of all who challenge Government policies, from environmental protestors to citizen groups protesting against state overreach. The challenge for all right thinking people is to unite in dismantling the countless laws passed under the guise of fighting terrorism and return to an evidence based approach to addressing the challenges we face.”

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)

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Data ‘leak’ at campus event proves Prevent is about silencing speech and spying on students https://www.cage.ngo/data-leak-at-campus-event-proves-prevent-is-about-silencing-speech-and-spying-on-students https://www.cage.ngo/data-leak-at-campus-event-proves-prevent-is-about-silencing-speech-and-spying-on-students#respond Tue, 05 Feb 2019 17:04:17 +0000 https://www.cage.ngo/?p=25575 London - CAGE is alarmed that attendees to an Islamophobia Awareness Month event at Kingston University had their data ‘leaked’ - in a serious breach of data protection -  to PREVENT. Students have long campaigned against PREVENT and the subsequent securitisation of campuses, which has stifled students’ ability to organise on their campuses. Conditions imposed

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London – CAGE is alarmed that attendees to an Islamophobia Awareness Month event at Kingston University had their data ‘leaked’ – in a serious breach of data protection –  to PREVENT.

Students have long campaigned against PREVENT and the subsequent securitisation of campuses, which has stifled students’ ability to organise on their campuses.

Conditions imposed on event organisers – including swipecard access, and pre-registration – result in precisely the “chilling effect” academics and professionals have warned about since PREVENT was made a statutory duty. Such actions breach the privacy rights of students and underline the dangers of university bodies acting as surveillance agents of the state.

The news of this data ‘breach’ comes as yet another guidance on ‘free speech’ has been issued to universities. It is to be regretted that the guidance merely reinforces the limited ability of students to protest beyond what narrow parameters determined by the state, whilst rendering anything beyond that as worthy of sanction.

Moazzam Begg CAGE Outreach Director said:

“I was invited to speak at Kingston University in 2016 by the then Vice Chancellor. He believed he was upholding free speech on campus. It is disturbing that information about students who registered to attend a subsequent event at the same University was leaked to PREVENT. Foreshadowing this revelation, during the later event, a previous speaker actually questioned the motive behind the student list. Now it is clear that it was, in effect, to spy on their students.”

“Kingston, and universities everywhere, should stand against the encroachment of surveillance in their institutions, and oppose PREVENT, which is at the centre of this trend. We demand that the university publicise the steps they will take to stop further ‘leaks’ of personal data of students, as well as the results of the investigation into the current breach, so that individuals can be held to account.”

 

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)

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Why CAGE believes the new Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill should alarm all who care about privacy. https://www.cage.ngo/why-cage-believes-the-new-crime-overseas-production-orders-bill-should-alarm-all-who-care-about-privacy https://www.cage.ngo/why-cage-believes-the-new-crime-overseas-production-orders-bill-should-alarm-all-who-care-about-privacy#respond Fri, 01 Feb 2019 12:19:30 +0000 https://www.cage.ngo/?p=25557 A new bill passing through parliament will strip away safeguards for capturing data and  facilitate the sharing of information with foreign governments with little to no protections for citizens. This is a gross violation of our right to privacy and it is why we have lent our name to a letter [in full below] published

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A new bill passing through parliament will strip away safeguards for capturing data and  facilitate the sharing of information with foreign governments with little to no protections for citizens. This is a gross violation of our right to privacy and it is why we have lent our name to a letter [in full below] published yesterday in the Guardian, highlighting the dangerous risks it poses..

The bill is the culmination of a steady loosening of legal safeguards against state intrusion into personal affairs since the advent of a raft of policies passed in the wake of 9/11 for the purpose of ‘counter-terrorism’.

These laws, which average about one every other year, have facilitated policies such as PREVENT and Schedule 7, both marketed to the masses as preventative measures but which have been nothing of the sort.

These laws have seen the erosion of due-process norms, the right to individual privacy, the right to hold dissenting views and beliefs, the right to ensure confidentiality of sensitive information particularly that which implicates state actors, and the right to ensure journalistic integrity and source protection, which is required for a robust and independent media and civil society that holds power to account.


Read more: PREVENT, like Schedule 7, just another intelligence gathering operation

Instead of stepping back and honestly assessing the damage of these policies , we are seeing them being constantly amended and developed. Within this climate of fear, a political and legislative atmosphere is created which facilitates bills such as these that will affect wider segments of the population.

Now, the new bill, known as the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill will increase the power given to authorities to gather data. The bill is a logical progression of the unchecked, draconian state powers afforded to security and state through ‘War on Terror’ policies.

These policies include PREVENT, Schedule 7 (where suspicionless stops at airports are legal and resisting a “digital strip search” and detention for up to six hours with no right to remain silent, can land you with a terrorism conviction), the Snoopers Charter, also known as the Investigatory Powers Act, and most recently the CTBS Bill.


Read More: May’s ‘world leading’ Snooper’s Charter follows in Britain’s lead on CVE/PREVENT

Most concerningly, the Bill skirts ordinary safeguards for privacy and allows for cross-border data sharing between governments with little to no protections for citizens. It does so while lowering the threshold for access to private data and in particular for ‘terrorist’ investigations, where no evidentiary threshold is required at all – this, despite the broad and Islamophobic notions that exist around what actually constitutes a ‘terrorism’ threat.

Through this law and the raft of previous legislation passed since the WoT, data gathering from us, the commencing of investigations based on this data, and other intrusions into our privacy, will now be highly politicised.

It will also bypass the normal legal safeguards of due process. This resembles a “state of emergency” response that is in no way proportional to the actual threat, and which has singled out Muslim communities in the past but now will affect the public and private life of all citizens.

This has been coming for some time. In 2013, David Miranda felt the brunt of the Schedule 7 law when he was detained and interrogated for nine hours by UK counter-terrorism police at Heathrow airport, since he was carrying information obtained from Edward Snowden. A High Court later ruled in his case that the policy was incompatible with the law protecting journalistic sources and client confidentiality.

But safeguards for journalists alone in the unending “War on Terror” are not enough. CAGE’s International Director Muhammad Rabbani was convicted of a terrorism offence under the same law as Miranda, Schedule 7, for protecting the confidential testimony of a torture survivor, when he was stopped at Heathrow airport in 2017.

Despite judges accepting that Rabbani had indeed been protecting a client, they were bound by the law to convict him. Subsequent challenges and appeals have been rejected by the courts. Though CAGE won the moral victory in this case, this outcome has set a startling precedent.


Read more: Private and confidential data at UK borders ‘unsafe’ following High Court judgement. Rabbani to appeal to Supreme Court

Our co-signatories on the letter urging caution about the bill, are rightly concerned with media independence and the protection of sources. While it’s essential to protect these freedoms, it is also essential to ensure that innocent people who clearly pose no threat, are also protected from unwarranted state intrusion.

Indeed, the powers given in this new bill, cannot be seen in isolation from the increasingly intrusive global surveillance and security architecture, and a two-tier justice system for Muslims that has seen a steady erosion of legal safeguards against state abuse, all in the name of the ‘War on Terror’ and ‘national security’.

While together challenging the excesses of the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill, we must also push back against the toxic policies and misguided notions that have brought us here. This is essential if we are to maintain trust and strive for a just and fair society.

 

FULL LETTER: UK NGOs concerned over press freedom implications of Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill

The Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill is a major shake-up of how authorities access the data of people in the UK and overseas, in the context of investigating and prosecuting serious crime.

We welcome better measures to tackle serious crime, but bad legislation will unnecessarily erode privacy, freedom of expression, and press freedom. It is possible to have more effective investigation and prosecution while also protecting these fundamental rights, but this bill fails to do so. Many of the powers in the bill are unprecedented and broad; for example, a general power for the police to apply for electronic content does not currently exist in UK law.

Section 20 (2) of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 sets a minimal threshold for authorities to access content: a warrant can only be deemed necessary if it is in the interests of national security, the prevention or detection of serious crime (defined in s.263, though reasonable grounds are not required), or in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom so far as it relates to national security. However, the threshold set in the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill is that there must be reasonable grounds for believing that an indictable offence has been committed (cl. 4(3)), unless the order is sought for the purposes of a terrorist investigation, in which case no evidentiary threshold is required at all.

Whilst we welcome the requirement of reasonable grounds, an ‘indictable offence’ threshold is lower than even the minimal threshold set out in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, which is already subject to judicial review. Therefore, this bill risks instating a two-tier system, further jeopardising privacy rights and freedom of expression rights protected by Articles 8 and 10 of the Human Rights Act respectively.

The Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill has two aims:

  1. it sets new rules when UK authorities are accessing communications data from overseas servers;
  2. it also envisages a brand-new framework of treaties to allow overseas courts to access UK-based data.

On the first aim, the bill establishes a quick route for UK authorities to access information stored on servers overseas – and that includes what’s held by big platforms and telecoms companies based in the US. But that route also takes a shortcut through important protections for citizens’ privacy, which results in a draconian new regime.

In the UK, there are rules around production orders that protect privacy and freedom of expression – they’re contained in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). Namely, the material sought has to be of substantial value to an investigation and likely to be relevant evidence; other methods of obtaining the material have to have been tried unless they were bound to fail; and it has to be in the public interest. This bill ignores these protections. That leaves UK citizens vulnerable – including journalists who need these protections to do work in the public interest. We ask that MPs and Peers include these protections in the bill.

On the second point, the bill will enable the Government to enter treaties to allow foreign governments to make inbound applications for information held in the UK. But it is silent on what, if any, checks and safeguards there will be. This may well result in overseas authorities – including police forces and authorities from undemocratic countries – having greater powers over UK-held data.

We urge MPs and Peers to insist that these future treaties mirror the existing safeguards in UK production orders as a minimum, and that they provide at least equivalent levels of protection for freedom of expression and privacy. There should be a commitment in this bill that robust safeguards will apply.

Signed:

Reporters Without Borders

Index on Censorship

English PEN

Big Brother Watch

Open Rights Group

National Union of Students

Committee on the Administration of Justice

CAGE

 

(CC Image courtesy of taz on Flikr)

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)

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CAGE Paper deconstructs Tony Blair Institute report: ‘Narratives of Division’ https://www.cage.ngo/cage-paper-deconstructs-tony-blair-institute-report-narratives-of-division https://www.cage.ngo/cage-paper-deconstructs-tony-blair-institute-report-narratives-of-division#respond Thu, 24 Jan 2019 13:45:20 +0000 https://www.cage.ngo/?p=25507 This paper is a response to the newly released report ‘Narratives of Division: The Spectrum of Islamist Worldviews in the UK’ by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. Following its publication late last week, we issued a statement outlining how it is “an academically flawed attempt to remould Islamic belief and silence Muslim voices

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This paper is a response to the newly released report ‘Narratives of Division: The Spectrum of Islamist Worldviews in the UK’ by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. Following its publication late last week, we issued a statement outlining how it is “an academically flawed attempt to remould Islamic belief and silence Muslim voices that challenge repressive state policies.”

In this paper, we debunk the central claims of the report, shed more light on the political motivations for it, and place its release in the current context of counter-extremism in Britain.

Download the paper here

 

View online:

CAGEResponse_TonyBlair_NarrativeDivision_FINAL

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)

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Government concedes PREVENT has lost all credibility as it tries to revive it through accepting an ‘independent Review’ https://www.cage.ngo/government-concedes-prevent-has-lost-all-credibility-as-it-tries-to-revive-it-through-accepting-an-independent-review https://www.cage.ngo/government-concedes-prevent-has-lost-all-credibility-as-it-tries-to-revive-it-through-accepting-an-independent-review#respond Tue, 22 Jan 2019 18:12:58 +0000 https://www.cage.ngo/?p=25491 London - In allowing an ‘independent review’ of PREVENT to go ahead the Government has conceded that the policy lacks any trust or credibility. The announcement made by the Security Minister Ben Wallace should be viewed with caution by communities, academics and activists who have been successful in their outright rejection of the policy and

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London – In allowing an ‘independent review’ of PREVENT to go ahead the Government has conceded that the policy lacks any trust or credibility. The announcement made by the Security Minister Ben Wallace should be viewed with caution by communities, academics and activists who have been successful in their outright rejection of the policy and in demonstrating its toxicity. This is a time to double up on the calls to end PREVENT.

Wallace’s own Parliamentary speech on the Review seemed to point in this direction; as being a means to pacify opponents without offering anything substantive – similar to recent disappointments such as the Chilcot review and Leveson Inquiry.

Dr Asim Qureshi, CAGE Research Director said:

“The announcement today is indicative that the PREVENT programme is highly mistrusted by those who are at most risk of being impacted by it. Rather than scrapping a fundamentally misguided policy that is not fit for purpose, a ‘review’ when no long-term impact assessments have been carried out in relation to the harm that it caused, will lend it a new lease of life.”

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)

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Tony Blair’s new report is a poor attempt at censoring Muslim voices and dictating Islamic belief https://www.cage.ngo/tony-blairs-new-report-is-a-poor-attempt-at-censoring-muslim-voices-and-dictating-islamic-belief https://www.cage.ngo/tony-blairs-new-report-is-a-poor-attempt-at-censoring-muslim-voices-and-dictating-islamic-belief#respond Fri, 18 Jan 2019 16:22:51 +0000 https://www.cage.ngo/?p=25472 London – A new report by the Tony Blair Institute (TBI) is an academically flawed attempt to remould Islamic belief and silence Muslim voices that challenge repressive state policies. Blair, commonly known for being funded by despots, is now attempting to cast himself as the authority on what is acceptable and unacceptable dissent within the

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London – A new report by the Tony Blair Institute (TBI) is an academically flawed attempt to remould Islamic belief and silence Muslim voices that challenge repressive state policies.

Blair, commonly known for being funded by despots, is now attempting to cast himself as the authority on what is acceptable and unacceptable dissent within the framework of his cash cow, the ‘War on Terror’.

The report uses the disbanded Al-Muhajiroun (ALM) as a baseline for “extremist” beliefs, and the authors tar anyone who approximates similar talking points as illegitimate, a superficial guilt-by-association without any actual contextual examination or rigorous academic enquiry.

The report is another signal that Blair and ilk are again misleading the public – this time in an attempt to legitimise the counter-extremism sector in the UK – particularly the CCE which we recently exposed – and globally.

This is underlined by the fact that the report authors advocate the same tired and discredited PREVENT narratives linking dissenting views to a propensity to commit violence.

 

Asim Qureshi, CAGE Research Director, said:

“It’s unsurprising, considering Tony Blair’s penchant for misinformation, that his organisation would use seriously flawed methodology in order to draw false conclusions regarding Muslim groups in the UK – it fits a wider pattern of behaviour to which we have become accustomed.”

“The report draws extremely subjective conclusions based on criteria that are not based on any credible and balanced research, but rather draw conclusions that have already been conceived.”

 

Moazzam Begg, CAGE’s Outreach Director said:

“A poll conducted by YouGov last year found that at least a third of the British population want to see Tony Blair “tried as a war criminal” for knowingly misleading Parliament leading up to the invasion of Iraq. Yet, despite Blair’s role in peddling false evidence to justify a war that has led to the deaths of millions of people, he has, unbelievably, modelled himself as a “peace envoy” in the Middle East and has sought to influence the debate around extremism and de-radicalisation. The report must be seen in this context.”

[Ends]

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)

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He’s been there for about 16 or 17 years. Why is he there and still imprisoned? – Ammar al-Baluchi’s cousin speaks out https://www.cage.ngo/hes-been-there-for-about-16-or-17-years-why-is-he-there-and-still-imprisoned-ammar-al-baluchis-cousin-speaks-out https://www.cage.ngo/hes-been-there-for-about-16-or-17-years-why-is-he-there-and-still-imprisoned-ammar-al-baluchis-cousin-speaks-out#respond Fri, 18 Jan 2019 16:08:27 +0000 https://www.cage.ngo/?p=25443 Ammar al Baluchi’s cousin, Muhammed Hussain Baloch, tells us about Ammar’s background, and questions why he is still held in Guantanamo bay.   In the name of God, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful. My name is Muhammad Hussain Baloch. I live in Karachi. I have lived here for about 43 years and I retired

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Ammar al Baluchi’s cousin, Muhammed Hussain Baloch, tells us about Ammar’s background, and questions why he is still held in Guantanamo bay.

 

In the name of God, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful.

My name is Muhammad Hussain Baloch. I live in Karachi. I have lived here for about 43 years and I retired two years ago.

Ammar al Baluchi is my close relative. I don’t know why he has been arrested for so long and detained over there.

We are from the Baloch tribe. The Baloch live across the borders of Iran and Pakistan. In Pakistan the Baloch have been present for a long time. In fact, they have been here for much longer than Pakistan has existed.  

The elders, Ammar’s paternal grandfather, Ali Muhammad and Shaikh Muhammad his maternal grandfather went to study in Deoband.

Ali Muhammad along with Shaikh Muhammad went to Kuwait. They were imams there. The younger generation was all born in Kuwait.

All the Baloch who went there from Iran and Karachi used to be their guests. They looked after them really well.  

The Baloch have always been very religious minded. They are steadfast in their prayers and they help people in need. This is how the Baloch are.

They are very good and religious people.  They have done a lot to serve their religion.

Our religion is Islam. If you look at what we wear you will see that our clothes reflect this. What I am wearing is a Baloch hat. People think it is Sindhi but in fact it is Baloch.  It is shaped to leave space for prostration during prayers.

The Baloch also keep a long shawl over their shoulders. When we sit then we join our feet together and tie the shawl over it. An elderly Baloch used to say this is our comfortable chair.

Our culture is so great that even though people were so poor in the olden days they were always very hospitable.

Ammar’s family has strong religious beliefs.  They still do. Mashallah they are great, intelligent people.

Ammar has been a master at computers. He is highly educated.  His brother was also a master at computers. Another brother is an engineer.

Many people have come to me since 9/11 when this case was new, including the media. I was in touch with ICRC.

The press knows that I have been working on behalf of missing persons in all of Pakistan – in Karachi, in Islamabad and in Lahore. I met the former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani in this regard as well.

Right now, we want Ammar al Baluchi, against whom there is no case, to be released. Even if there is a case against him, then it is very weak.

All the international organizations that are working should produce evidence for his release. I request them to take his case to the entire press.

My message is that his case should be reopened and whatever the decision is, it should be made quickly.

He’s been there for about 16 or 17 years. Why is he there and still imprisoned? What is the issue?

 

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)

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‘He wants to reunite with his family’ – Interview with Ammar al-Baluchi’s lawyer Alka Pradhan https://www.cage.ngo/he-wants-to-reunite-with-his-family-interview-with-ammar-al-baluchis-lawyer-alka-pradhan https://www.cage.ngo/he-wants-to-reunite-with-his-family-interview-with-ammar-al-baluchis-lawyer-alka-pradhan#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 17:47:01 +0000 https://www.cage.ngo/?p=25446 Ammar al Baluchi’s lawyer Alka Pradhan tells us about what Ammar is like as a person, how he has suffered, his health, and the challenges and hopes for his case.   Can you give us a background about yourself and how you ended up defending Ammar Baluchi? I am a U.S.-qualified attorney with expertise in

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Ammar al Baluchi’s lawyer Alka Pradhan tells us about what Ammar is like as a person, how he has suffered, his health, and the challenges and hopes for his case.

 

Can you give us a background about yourself and how you ended up defending Ammar Baluchi?

I am a U.S.-qualified attorney with expertise in human rights and humanitarian law, and I have been horrified by the atrocities at Guantanamo Bay since my college days.

I first represented about a dozen of the men at Guantanamo who were being cleared for release – first trying to help them get cleared, and then negotiating their releases either to their home countries or to third countries.

Along with other committed attorneys, I represented Shaker Aamer, Younous Chekkouri, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, Emad Hassan, and several others.

In 2015, I received an offer to work on Ammar’s case. Ammar is facing the death penalty at an illegal military court in Guantanamo, and my job is to highlight in the courtroom and for the public all of the continuing torture and legal violations and he suffers.

Can you tell us a bit about Ammar, in particular what strikes you most about his personality?

Ammar has a very intelligent and generous personality and roots his actions in his faith. Even though he struggles physically and mentally from his torture, he works with us closely on his legal defence and helps to shape our work.

He cares very much about other people, whether his family, his legal team, or other detainees, and tries to help us in any way he can.

Ammar was tortured in black sites across the globe. Please give some examples of instances to show the consequences of this on his day to day life.

Ammar was tortured in black sites across the globe. It was horrific, and the CIA actually helped showed parts of it in the movie Zero Dark Thirty, where “Ammar” is water doused, strung up with chains, and beaten.

In reality, Ammar suffered much more than that – he was also sexually tortured, shackled in painful positions, and sleep deprived for years.

Not only that, but the US refuses any real medical care or torture rehabilitation to deal with the effects of his state-sponsored torture, which under the law is actually a continuing crime of torture.

Can you describe his efforts to access medical care and what the result of this has been?

Ammar is only 41 years old, but he has a traumatic brain injury that affects his cognitive abilities. He is unable to concentrate for long periods of time, and has trouble reading lengthy items.

He is very sensitive to light, since he was sleep deprived using 24/7 fluorescent lights, and is prone to vertigo. He has great pain and numbness in his arms and legs from the shackling, and he continues to be shackled at Guantanamo.

He also cannot sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time because of the sleep deprivation, which is enormously destructive to his mental and physical health. The US refuses to do anything to help him with these conditions.

Ammar knew that he had suffered a head injury at the black sites, but it took many years of litigating and advocacy to even get an MRI done for him in 2017.

Apart from that, the medical staff at Guantanamo are largely indifferent – they will not conduct a sleep study or offer continuous psychological care to help with the effects of his torture.

In fact, often when he tries to tell them what happened to him, they say that they don’t want to discuss the causes of his medical problems, because (the torture) is classified!

What makes the military commissions process in Ammar’s case particularly unique compared to other legal cases you’ve worked on?

The military commissions at Guantanamo are illegal because they are a separate court system built only for non-US citizens: Muslim men on an island where U.S. laws and rights don’t apply.

Military commissions are only meant to be used for combatants in a war, but Ammar is a civilian, and trying civilians in military commissions is strictly forbidden under normal circumstances.

The rules and location of the commission mean that the U.S. can try to use torture-acquired evidence against Ammar. They can also spy on defense counsel and violate attorney-client privilege, and they can do all of this while telling the public – who can’t access Guantanamo – lies about how they treat Guantanamo detainees.

In such a challenging case, what are you hoping to achieve for your client?

We have been fortunate that the United Nations has taken notice of Ammar’s case, and last year the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a major opinion saying that after analyzing Ammar’s case and his detention, they concluded that the United States could not give him a fair trial, and he should be released immediately with provision for his medical case from the United States. In light of these international legal experts calling for his release, we are hoping for a humanitarian transfer for Ammar to a third country, so that he can finally obtain the medical care that he desperately needs.

Until now, what are the hurdles he has faced in defending himself against the accusations made against him?

The biggest hurdle is that the United States government wants to hide information about Ammar’s torture from the defense. In fact, we now know through litigation that the information the US has been hiding shows that most of their evidence is tainted by torture.

Our job now is to make sure that they cannot use that illegal evidence in court – it is neither factually reliable nor moral.

What are his immediate needs and concerns?

Ammar’s most immediate concern is his health, whose deterioration has accelerated recently. He is looking for help to get the medical care he needs, and he will not get that care at Guantanamo.

Has he mentioned what he would like to do if he is released? Please share these hopes with us.

Ammar has two simple hopes if he is released. First, to get the medical he needs to survive the effects of his devastating torture. And second, to reunite with his family members, whom he thinks of constantly.

Please share any final words regarding Ammar with our concerned readers.

On behalf of Ammar, we are very grateful for your support. Please continue to call for #JusticeforAmmar, ask for his immediate release on humanitarian grounds, and follow @BaluchiGitmo and @Gitmowatch on Twitter for more information about his case.

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)

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Ammar al-Baluchi: After 15 years of brutal torture, the US does not want to grant him a fair trial https://www.cage.ngo/ammar-al-baluchi-after-15-years-of-brutal-torture-the-us-does-not-want-to-grant-him-a-fair-trial https://www.cage.ngo/ammar-al-baluchi-after-15-years-of-brutal-torture-the-us-does-not-want-to-grant-him-a-fair-trial#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 17:51:32 +0000 https://www.cage.ngo/?p=25432 Ammar al-Baluchi was born on August 29, 1977. His family is from Balochistan, a region divided by nation states including Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The Baloch have a rich culture and are known for their generous hospitality. “They are very good and religious people,” said his cousin Muhammed Baloch. “They are highly educated, and they

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Ammar al-Baluchi was born on August 29, 1977. His family is from Balochistan, a region divided by nation states including Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

The Baloch have a rich culture and are known for their generous hospitality. “They are very good and religious people,” said his cousin Muhammed Baloch. “They are highly educated, and they know a lot about Islam.”

So much so that Ammar’s paternal grandfather, Ali Muhammad, settled in Kuwait in the 1950s, where he was an Imam.

Ammar’s late father was among the first Baluchi writers, and wrote the first Baluchi grammar book for Arabic speakers – a treasure for any Baloch living in the Gulf.

Ammar has lived in Kuwait, Balochistan, Karachi and Dubai. Besides being well educated in both secular and Islamic knowledge, he was also easy-going and made friends wherever he went.

Pictures of Ammar as a child and a young computer engineer.

He was able to speak many different languages from a young age including Arabic, Baluchi, Farsi, Urdu and English.

Ammar had high aspirations of working as a computer engineer. “Masha’Allah, Ammar did his masters in computers,” said his cousin. “He is very good at computers.”

He was among the first Baloch to work in this field in Dubai, which made his community proud.

He moved to Karachi when his visa for Dubai expired, and he hoped to return to Dubai once it had been sorted out.

But after the tragedy of 9/11 his whole world changed.

Kidnap and torture in black sites across the globe

Ammar was kidnapped in Karachi in April 2003 and transferred to US custody. He was 25 years old.

For three years, he was held in a black site, a mysterious hidden prison where he suffered unspeakable torture.

In 2006, he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay prison, and placed in isolation at Camp 7. A year later he was classified as an “enemy combatant” (EC).

This meant he would be tried and prosecuted with no rule of law protections guaranteed to prisoners by the Geneva Convention.

During his “trial” by the Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) – known among prisoners as the “theatre” of Guantanamo – the US included coerced statements taken under torture, and unreliable hearsay evidence against him.

Recent photo of Ammar al-Baluchi

They also said he could not cross-examine witnesses. This continued for three years. Then in 2010, all charges against Ammar were dropped.

Ammar had hopes of being released, but he continued to be detained without charge until a year later, when the CSRT resumed processes against him.

The US alleged that he helped finance 9/11, but they have refused to give him a fair trial. They are trying their best to keep the details of his torture secret, and as a result will not offer him a means to rebut the allegations.

Used as a human experiment

Ammar’s torture was so bad that the US has censored most of the details. They have even destroyed evidence, including the black site where the torture took place.

But Ammar has not forgotten. He recounts:

“After US government agents shaved my head, they smashed my head against the wall repeatedly. It continued until I lost count at each session.

“As my head was being hit each time I would see sparks of lights in my eyes. As the intensity of the sparks were increasing as a result of repeated hitting. All of a sudden I felt a strong jolt of electricity in my head then I couldn’t see anything and everything went dark and I passed out.”

To this day, the US keeps saying that the details of his torture are not relevant to his prosecution, and yet they keep trying to use “evidence” from that time against him.

“The US government had both my hands tied together by tight handcuffs for about 120 days straight,” he said. “They had to cut the handcuffs by bolt cutters because the handcuffs got so rusted that wouldn’t open with keys.”

Images on unclassified documents where Ammar speaks about some of the torture he endured.

Ammar was also used as a human experiment, and doctors were complicit in his torture. He describes one incident:

“I wasn’t just being suspended to the ceiling, I was naked, starved, dehydrated, cold, hooded, verbally threatened, in pain from the beating and water-drowning [sic], as my head was smashed against the wall for dozen and dozen of times.

“My ears were exploding from the blasting harsh music (which is still stuck in my head), and I was sleep deprived for weeks, I was shaking and trembling my legs barely supported my weight as my hands were pulled even higher above my head.

“After I complained that the handcuffs were so tight and it was as if they cutting through my wrist. Then my legs start to swell up as a result of long suspension.

“I started screaming and the doctor came with a tape measure, wrapped it around my leg and to my utmost shock the doctor told the interrogator: ‘no that wasn’t enough and my leg should get more swollen!’.”

These doctors tried unspeakable things on him. Court documents show how if one thing did not work, they said, try this or “‘No, no, you didn’t do that right. Do it again.”

They were using Ammar as a guinea pig to train other interrogators and “improve” their terrible torture programme.

The truth is slowly coming out. In May last year, one interrogator admitted that he had “personally drowned” Ammar by a method they call water-dousing: waterboarding without a board. He was also one of the guards who slammed his head repeatedly.

The US has gone to great lengths to keep his torture secret

Instead of admitting their wrongs, the CIA collaborated with Hollywood, and made a $40 million dollar film called Zero Dark Thirty, that starts with a character based on Ammar being tortured, in a manner that justifies it.

Screen grab of torture scene from the movie Zero Dark Thirty that glamorised Ammar’s torture

Even the UN said the film, in trying to influence the public, was prejudicial to Ammar’s right to a fair trial.

The US is so concerned with keeping the details of Ammar’s torture secret that they will not allow Ammar or any of the other prisoners to talk to a psychologist, because then the details will be recorded by someone else.

The result of over classification, Ammar says “is that my memories are classified, my thoughts are classified, my pain and suffering is classified, my post torture (post trauma) symptoms are classified.

“I am subjected to re-traumatization on daily basis. Every day I am being reminded of my torture, and this is not happening randomly, but systematically.”

Up until recently, Ammar found comfort in art. One piece of art, called ‘Vertigo’, which depicted the startling mental toll of his torture, was exhibited in New York City and got a lot of press attention.

But now, they are even afraid of art. Ammar is no longer allowed to show his artwork to anyone except his lawyers.

His health is waning as he suffers severe physical and psychological injury

Ammar’s health has deteriorated over the past year. He has problems with cognitive abilities, pain in his arms, legs, and back, bouts of vertigo, light sensitivity, and anxiety.

“After [they smashed my head against the wall] I lost my ability to sleep,” he says. “I was not able to have a normal or deep sleep. I am still reliving the nightmares of this incident every night; [each] time I try to close my eyes it just pops up and this was just one of many incidents.”

After seven years of asking, Ammar was finally granted an MRI in January last year. In June, he had a septoplasty to improve his breathing; struggling to breathe prevented him from sleeping.

Art piece by Ammar called ‘Vertigo’, it depicts the startling mental toll of his torture.

But the US continues to withhold adequate medical care. Ammar has had no therapy for the effects of his torture. He often relies only on painkillers.

The irony of American ‘democracy’ is bitterly clear. “It is so devastating to see a society that claims to be and portray itself as civilised and modern, employ doctors knowingly not to heal and care, but [to actually do] the opposite: to maximize and increase the pain and suffering of a human being, ” Ammar says.

“The first thing that comes to mind is Nazi Doctors conducting all kind of brutal and sadistic experiments on captives…”

Despite being in US custody for over 15 years, Ammar has never received a status hearing as required by the Geneva Convention. This means that his continued detention and trial by military commission is illegal under international law.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last year found that Ammar’s ongoing indefinite detention was arbitrary and that it breaches international human rights law. They called for his immediate release and “right to compensation and other reparations”.

Amnesty International collected nearly 30 thousand signatures from its supporters demanding justice for Ammar. Amnesty called for Ammar to have a fair trial and not to face the death penalty.

The US has not allowed Ammar to see his family in 15 years, but he tries his best to maintain family bonds through Eid greetings and letters.

Letters from Ammar’s young nephews and nieces.

Letters from his nephews depict pictures of the Eid table full of food, news of school tests, and wishes that they may meet him some day. One letter reads: “I see the moon and the moon sees me. Allah bless the moon and Allah bless you.”

Ammar remains hopeful that one day, he will see his family again.

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)

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