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June 2012

Syria’s Youth

Michel Kilo

Originally published on 23rd May 2012

Nowadays, Syria’s youth are facing unparalleled circumstances of a tragic and dangerous nature. Situations that were rarely encountered by the youth of any other country, be it Arab or foreign. It is enough to be a Syrian youth today to be a suspect, and in turn be chased or wanted, targeted for arrest and torture till death, or be shot at. What is interesting though, is that the party that is opposing these youth, just because they are the youth, subjecting them to ruthless suppression, is a regime that has long been boasting the youth of it’s President, that he would turn a new page in the history of the nation of Syria and its people, and that he would renew both society and state, all with his youthful mentality.

It would not be an exaggeration to state that Syria’s youth- who the regime used to claim are the pillars of hope and aspiration, and heaped praise at them in its speeches and slogans- are being subjected to an organized war that utilizes light, medium and heavy weaponry which has claimed tens of thousands of their lives until now. The regime has also locked away their finest in dungeons, prisons, sports stadiums, hospitals, warehouses, camps, and rented or appropriated homes. Meanwhile the number of the youth wounded have exceeded that of the collective Arab armies in their wars with Israel. As for the unaccounted for, or missing youth, their numbers have exceeded 70,000, and the number of those being chased by the security forces from one place to the other have exceeded 50,000. In that context, you have to be very cautious if you happen to be young in Syrian today; you would be considered an actual or potential enemy of the regime, and would find yourself in a confrontation with powers waging war against you. It is, enough to be young to be considered a suspect or on the opposing side and become a target.

The tragedy is that Syrian society is a young society with 79% of its population under 34 years of age, and most of those youth have been without any public involvement or were marginalized prior to the uprising. They are either unemployed (accounting to 70% of the total number of unemployed), have immigrated, are expatriates abroad, or are low-wage workers performing manual unspecialized jobs. This dire situation in addition to their deprivation of their rights and freedoms explains their contribution to launching the uprising and converting it to a persistent Movement, taking up the responsibility of leading it, as well as their courage, bravery, and their willingness to provide the necessary sacrifices for it’s victory. Their revolution has taken them out of marginalization and humiliation, and placed them in the heart of one of the greatest events of the ancient and modern histories of the Arab world. Realizing what this event required they put their lives on the line. Lives that due to the revolution have become the center of politics in Syria; they’ve filled the public domain, set its new boundaries and introduced unfamiliar mechanisms of action to it. Hence, eliminating them (i.e. killing them and terminating their existence) has become the aim of a counter policy that came from the top; a policy that is based on the notion that the only way to take them out of the political stage is to take them out of life itself. It can even be said that over the past 15 months, Syria has been witnessing a battle waged against it’s youth, by a regime that is outdated, worn out and has become a thing of the past. Even though this youth has no sin other than seeking, with a civil spirit and legitimate demands, their place under the sun of freedom, which according to most of the youth I have met prior to the uprising, they have decided to achieve or die trying. One evening, in one of Damascus’s restaurants, I came across a group of university graduates and was able to share a conversation with them. When I asked them what they wanted, they admonishingly replied: “How did you withstand forty-odd years of humiliation, in which you were able to live in the absence of freedom? We the youth would either life free or die, and we would reject for as long as we live, the option that you [the elder generation] have chosen: which is accommodating the ruler and silence over injustice for the sake of personal safety and living a routine stable daily life”. I warned them: “But you’re not experienced in politics, and the burden is too heavy!” Their eldest, a doctor, then replied: “Politics be damned, we are undergoing a war of existence, not a political battle! And if it is to be, then we would learn politics, but not according to your [generation’s] or your parties’ methods”.

The Syrian youth have thrust themselves in a battle, and it would never have occurred to anyone prior to 15 March 2011, that they possess so much spirit of sacrifice which they have shown in this battle, and no one would have predicted their readiness to die for the sake of freedom which they have perceived as the way to attain justice, equality and dignity. Youth from all poles and dominations, and religious and ideological affiliations have fought with this simple agenda over the past period, without complicating matters and losing themselves in the mazes of talkology. They have raised the flag of freedom and ventured on to the fields of battle and martyrdom. They accomplished two miracles in the process, which no Syrian could have ever thought would materialize. The first is a social /popular revolution, unprecedented and unparalleled in Syria, past and present. The second is that, until now, they have managed to make it last, and prevent it from being crushed at the hands of forces vastly superior both in military and organizational terms. They knew how to stop the regime from overturning the balances of power on the ground that are in their (the youth’s) favor, and thus foiled the regimes attempts at extinguishing the uprising. The first miracle materialized due to the creation of ingenious and surprising forms of struggle that have amassed very large sectors of the people behind the goal of Freedom. While the second miracle materialized because the youth did not waiver their demand for freedom, justice and dignity, and did not waste their time with the opposition powers and parties talk about the alternative regime and it’s forms, modes, component forces, about mundane issues, whether the alternative it is going to be democratic-civic or civic-democrat, or civic and democratic, or democratic and civic, etc… The youth have ignored this debate, which would be of no value if the regime succeeded in subjugating the revolution, and reminded those whom are concerned, that the opposition’s task lies in fortifying the public struggle and preventing the turn of power balances against it, through developing agendas, operational plans, and timetables for the phases that the struggle will encounter, prior to the overthrowing or the current regime and the attainment of the alternative democratic regime.

The amazing youth are experiencing injustice from two sides: the first of which is the authority that is targeting them with physical repression and slaughter. While the second are those who work to steal their role and circumvent their goals and sacrifices through confiscation and marginalization on one hand and overbidding and exploits on another.

Yet, the youth’s revolution continues, and with it continues their ability to attract segments of the civil society and win them over for Freedom. What also continues is their determination to achieve victory and desire to get rid of tyranny, and to pave new roads for the revolution and thrust new forces in its peaceful battle. It could even be said, that Syria has never been closer to gaining it’s freedom than it is today, due to the river of blood spilt by the youth on the path to freedom, their patriotism and collective community spirit, and the unity of their will, their rise above sectarianism and other social diseases, as well as their perseverance on death and suffering with their heads held high en-route towards Free Syria!

The youth have regained the spirit for their homeland; a homeland that has to place it’s potential resources in their hands, given that they have sacrificed all that is invaluable and precious seeking it’s freedom, and thus in the process proved worthy of it. They proved that by them and with them their country would be better than it was in any day of its ancient and modern history!

Congratulations to Syria, for it’s youth, who place it above all other considerations and calculations!

Michel Kilo is a prominent Syrian opposition figure.

Source:

Asharq Al-Awsat Newspaper

Status of Humanitarian aid to the Syrian People (By Souria AlKarama)

Posted by 

Intro from OTW

On the day their murderous gangs of paramilitia and hijacked regular army murdered 55 Syriansto keep  the thug in  power, the thug Bashar Assad and his co-conspirator and partner in crimes Asma, played humanitarias. A clip  Syrian TV shows the two criminals and their cohort seemingly packaging food supplies to the “victims of terrorism” in Homs. Of course, this has to be accompanied by one of the “Baathist” propaganda empty phrases, (see right corner of the image capture”. The phrase says لبينا النداء ، (we answered the call).

April 18, 2012, the repulsive criminal couple playing humanitarians on the day their gangs murdered 55 Syrians .

The repulsive cynicism of the Assad mafia gang knows no limit. Their forces routinely kill doctors and aid workers with all the telltale signs of an utter contempt for Syria and Syrians as demonstrated by the vengeful sniping of the best of Syrian youth who dare to defy this criminal gang’s intent on the murder and impoverishment of more and more Syrians . And yet, the two criminals go on a vogue photoshoot in a “releif centre” set in  a stadium after they have turned most of  Syria’s  staduims and sport-centers into collective punishment, humiliation and torture facilities.  Their  shamelessness knows no limit.

I have argued in my previous post that the regime, with its murderous “burn the country” campaign has succeeded in occupying a large number of activists with humanitarian relief, which reduces their ability to participate in the political and even military aspects of this revolution. At the same time, the scale of mayhem, and the hate and contempt to Syria  and Syrians shown by this mafia gang and their supporters has made even the slightest of humanitarian relief a heroic political and resistance act*.

I have asked my new friend, Souria Alkarama, who is heavily engaged in relief work in Syria to summarize the status of relief activities. My friend has kindly written the following post, which is being transmitted, un-edited, as I have received it. It is worth noting that many like my friend are working silently on this issue. You may not find them boasting about it, or writing with strong language as we do, but they are in fact among  the real silent, gravely endangered heroes of Syria. The tugs are after them in every corner. I salute them, and ask those who pray to pray for their safety and well being.

Status of Humanitarian aid to the Syrian People
(by Souria AlKarama)

When the Syrian uprising erupted some fifteen months ago, it was called the dignity revolution. Civilians marched to the streets in many parts of the country demanding freedom, dignity and reform. Unlike the other Arab countries that witnessed the so called “Arab Spring”, the Syrian revolution seems to be the bloodiest. The Syrian Regime showed, and still is showing, its ugliest face while cracking down on the protestors using unimaginable ways and tactics. These despicable tactics against the Syrian citizens led some activists to rename the revolution “The Bread Revolution”.

The one tactic this article is going to shed light on is what is called “collective punishment”. The Syrian Authority has continuously used this tactic against the Syrian civilians in those areas of revolts prohibiting medical supplies to many areas of the country such as in Daraa, Hama, Idleb and Homs. It was confirmed that the Syrian ministry of health offices in those cities have stopped distributing renal failure, diabetic, hypertension and asthma medications to those in need. They were turned away and told straight to their face, “let your freedom get your medication” referring to the number one demand of the activists in the street. In the same fashion the Syrian authority stopped supplying many cities and most villages with water, heating oil, cooking gas, and electricity. They went further in selected areas and stopped supplying the flour to make bread. Even garbage collection was put on halt in many areas which will deepen the humanitarian crisis especially in the heat of the summer season.

According to the International Red Cross statement issued last April, “more than 1.5 million Syrians are struggling to meet basic needs like food, water, and shelter. Tens of thousands of civilians are living in public buildings and the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is feeding about 100,000 so called “vulnerable Syrians”. Add to it more than five million unemployed Syrians. The worst of all this is the confirmed number of orphaned children. In the city of Homs alone after 6 months of military attacks and 6 weeks of random heavy shelling to various neighborhoods, at least 2000 children were confirmed orphaned. The reports coming out of Idleb in the north show that the number of orphaned children is even larger.

Under the ethical and moral pressure of all this suffering, many well-known international charities were able to help with limited capacities inside Syria. Due to the restricted regulations the Syrian Regime imposed on them, they turned to help the Syrian refugees who fled the country to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. In addition, few Syrian non-governmental organizations were established by expatriate Syrians. These newly formed charity foundations were able to build an underground network of brave and dedicated men and women inside the country to coordinate the smuggling and the distribution of the funds, medical supplies and the humanitarian supplies to those in need.

The cash smuggled is used in several different ways. Part of the money was used to buy the food supply to arrange for what is now called “the food basket”. The food basket contains non perishable items like rice, sugar, pasta, cooking oil, canned food….etc. A detailed list of those families in need is compiled by the activists and then just before dawn the baskets are distributed to the families, one by one. Distribution of such items (food) is very dangerous and can carry unimaginable consequences should the Syrian security forces find out. Many activists lost their lives distributing bread and other kinds of food. These heroes paid the ultimate price so their fellow Syrians could survive. One activist, who distributes food baskets in Duma just outside Damascus, once, said “it is by far much better for a person to be caught demonstrating in the street rather than getting caught distributing food to the people. They (referring to the Security forces) want to starve our people”. Many brave activists lost their lives to a sniper or a bomb shell while distributing humanitarian aids. A physician from the city of Aleppo was shot dead at a check point near the town of Rastan, just north of Homs, because he was caught smuggling medical supplies in his car. A young man from Homs whose job was to distribute bread bags to couple neighborhood was shot dead by the Syrian security as he was attempting to smuggle the bread bags.

They also use the cash smuggled to subsidize the families who lost their breadwinner and to the families of arrested fathers, husbands or brothers. Detailed tables that show the martyrs first and last name, the number of dependents and their ages was created. Also the list include any distant family that maybe living in the same household. In many instances the ID number is used to identify the individuals in each family. Cash is given monthly to the family through an underground and well trusted network.

In addition, cash is used to buy medical equipment which is usually bought from a vendor inside the country. This medical equipment is used to furnish the field hospitals, (another underground network that consist of medical personal who can’t treat the injured in hospitals fearing the death squad who are roaming all hospitals especially in the cities with tense fighting like Homs and Idleb). The violation of medical neutrality and the targeting of doctors, hospitals, medics and ambulances is well documented and verified by many independent organizations such as ‘Physicians for Human Rights’ and ‘Doctors without Borders’. The main question is how much those newly formed “NGO” can do to minimize the magnitude of the crisis and suffering? The answer cannot be answered by simply saying: they can help or they can’t!

The magnitude of the humanitarian catastrophe is tremendous and requires well-funded international organizations backed by the international community to make a measurable difference. At the same time it’s very easy for a beginner humanitarian worker to feel very pessimistic of the outcome. A person needs to put things in perspective. If some things are not done perfectly, that doesn’t mean that we should be discouraged from helping.

On June 5th, 2012 there has been a breakthrough. The Syrian government has said it will let the United Nations enter the country and deliver humanitarian aid to people in need, a U.N. official said Tuesday. “After a long time of very intense negotiations, we now have an agreement in writing with the Syrian government on the scale, scope and modality of humanitarian action in Syria,” John Ging, director of operations at the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in Geneva, Switzerland.

The sacrifice I witnessed in my brief time working with coordinating humanitarian aids to Syria is phenomenal. I bow with humility and pride to the brave Syrian men and women who dedicated their life to help their fellow citizens. These people cannot be defeated. I have witnessed courage equal only to that seen in movies and fairy tales.

By Souria AlKarama
June,  2012

______________________________________________________________

Note from OTW: * Herein, I am reclaiming the word resistance from the Assad mafia and from their partners  such as Hizbullah and other bankrupt defunct nationalist, communist, and fascist parties throughout the region. I am determined on doing so as part of rehabilitating our political language.

Source

Max Blumenthal Resigns Al Akhbar Over Syria Coverage

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ou1vc8EvebA&feature=colike?]

Gaza : Palestinians in support of Syrians

Oppressed people of color cannot think for themselves

  • Remember when the Reagan administration and others on the right insisted that everyone (from armed guerrillas to nonviolent human rights activists) resisting the brutal Salvadoran junta were simply dupes of a Soviet/Cuban conspiracy? Now some elements on the far left are claiming that everyone (violent and nonviolent) struggling against the brutal Syrian regime are simply dupes of the U.S. and Israel. Both extremists are united by this racist notion that oppressed people of color cannot think for themselves and will only resist if white foreigners tell them to.

Urge President Correa to Grant Asylum to Julian Assange

Posted: 21 Jun 2012 10:11 AM PDT

From the essential Just Foreign Policy:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has requested political asylum from Ecuador.

British courts recently rejected Assange’s appeal against extradition to Sweden. Assange has good reason to fear extradition to Sweden: many believe it likely that Sweden would extradite Assange to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 for his role in publishing leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, charges that could carry the death penalty. The treatment of Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of providing U.S. diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, suggests the treatment that Assange might expect in U.S. government custody. Manning has been subjected to repeated and prolonged solitary confinement, harassment by guards, and humiliation such as being forced to strip naked and stand at attention outside his cell.

If the U.S. government succeeds in prosecuting Assange under the Espionage Act, it will likely intimidate future potential whistleblowers, making it harder to reveal important secrets about U.S. foreign policy in the future—and making it harder to reform U.S. foreign policy.

Will you join us in urging President Correa to grant Julian Assange’s request for political asylum?

Glenn Greenwald writes today in the Guardian:

If one asks current or former WikiLeaks associates what their greatest fear is, almost none cites prosecution by their own country. Most trust their own nation’s justice system to recognize that they have committed no crime. The primary fear is being turned over to the US. That is the crucial context for understanding Julian Assange’s 16-month fight to avoid extradition to Sweden, a fight that led him to seek asylum, Tuesday, in the London Embassy of Ecuador.

The evidence that the US seeks to prosecute and extradite Assange is substantial. There is no question that the Obama justice department has convened an active grand jury to investigate whether WikiLeaks violated the draconian Espionage Act of 1917. Key senators from President Obama’s party, including Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, have publicly called for his prosecution under that statute. A leaked email from the security firm Stratfor – hardly a dispositive source, but still probative – indicated that a sealed indictment has already been obtained against him. Prominent American figures in both parties have demanded Assange’s lifelong imprisonment, called him a terrorist, and even advocated his assassination.

As Greenwald notes:

Assange’s fear of ending up in the clutches of the US is plainly rational and well-grounded. One need only look at the treatment over the last decade of foreign nationals accused of harming American national security to know that’s true; such individuals are still routinely imprisoned for lengthy periods without any charges or due process. Or consider the treatment of Bradley Manning, accused of leaking to WikiLeaks: a formal UN investigation found that his pre-trial conditions of severe solitary confinement were ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading’, and he now faces capital charges of aiding al-Qaida.

WikiLeaks has made a tremendous contribution to exposing U.S. foreign policy to public scrutiny. The importance of transparency and public information to reforming U.S. foreign policy cannot be overstated. Recently, Just Foreign Policy worked with the offices of Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Rep. John Conyers to support a letter signed by 26 Members of Congress to President Obama pressing the Administration to disclose more information about its drone strike policy, particularly concerning civilian casualties and so-called “signature strikes” that target unknown people based on (often faulty) intelligence of suspicious activity. Polls have suggested that the drone strike policy is popular in the U.S., but the popularity in the U.S. stems from ignorance: the American people don’t know what they are supporting, because the reality of the policy has been hidden from public scrutiny. That’s why it’s so important that information about U.S. foreign policy be made public.

Therefore—in addition to our concern for Assange’s individual human rights—people who are working to reform U.S. foreign policy have a big stake in what happens in the Julian Assange/WikiLeaks case. If the U.S. government succeeds in intimidating whistleblowers, it will be harder to reveal information about U.S. foreign policy in the future, and therefore it will be harder to reform U.S. foreign policy. That’s why it’s so important for President Correa—who has legitimate reason to be concerned about possible retaliation from the United States—to hear from Americans urging that he grant Julian Assange’s request for political asylum.

Please add your voice by signing our petition to President Correa here:

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy

Veteran Israeli soldiers speak out about service

Published today (updated) 22/06/2012 12:12
Israeli soldiers escort settlers through the West Bank city of Hebron.
(MaanImages/Eleonora Vio, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A group of veteran Israeli soldiers who served the West Bank and Gaza have spoken out on camera about their experiences in the army.The Israeli organization Breaking the Silence has collected testimonies from 800 veteran Israeli soldiers who served in the West Bank and Gaza. In a new campaign, it has released video testimonies of six former soldiers describing their experiences.Amit served in Ramallah, Hebron and the northern West Bank during the second intifada. He describes an incident in which an Israeli commander swung his rifle at the jaw of a Palestinian during a tense situation at a roadblock near Jerusalem.”Beyond the fact that the guy fell to the ground, bleeding and screaming in pain, and of course all of the other Palestinians only grew angrier, it took us a long time to gain control of the mess and, of course, we had to more aggressive, cocking our weapons and such.”He says witnessing first hand what goes on the West Bank shattered his worldview.”Going from a place where I was sure that we are the scapegoat, the miserable ones being killed, I saw a reality that, most of the time, was the opposite.

“I saw me running after people, I saw myself pointing a gun at a 3-year-old girl, I saw me and my friends cuffing people, checking people, detaining people. questioning people, arresting people. In most cases, it was for nothing.”

Yehuda Shaul, one of the founders of Breaking the Silence, says he did everything he was required to as a fighter — and later a commander — in the Israeli army.

“If the mission right now is to keep the kids out of school, then the kids won’t go to school. If the mission is to disperse a funeral because of the curfew, then the family … will not finish burying their dead relative. It will leave the corpse there and leave. And if they don’t do it, they’ll get stun grenades and gas.”

“Can you even imagine a situation of an Israeli family at a funeral and the police comes to disperse them?”

Yehuda says he talks about his service because “if we don’t talk … none of us will know what goes on there.”

He says the most memorable part of his service was watching Palestinians getting beaten up by settlers in Hebron, while under orders not to touch them.

Another soldier, Sagi, who also served in Hebron, recalls a procession of Israeli children burning an effigy of a member of the anti-settlement organization Peace Now.

“I understood that all of the things that I thought — that there are boundaries, that at the end of the day we’re on the same side — that, from my point of view, is no longer the case. And from their point of view I’m not legitimate, and if they knew my political opinions they could replace the doll with me.”

Sagi says he finds people prefer not to listen to his experiences of the army, and those that do listen think that his experience was isolated, and perhaps he was “a soldier who transgressed” and should be put on trial.

“Maybe I really should be put on trial – but if I need to be tried, as one of the humane soldiers who served in the territories, I guess we should try all Israeli soldiers,” he says.

‘We’re ruining people’s lives on a daily basis’

Yael served as a scout in Gaza, monitoring a live video feed of the Gaza border.

“We’re kneaded and molded to see something suspicious in everything we see. I look into the cameras and I don’t see a donkey, a dog or a cart. I see a vehicle that can get a charge across, a vehicle that can get weapons across … It’s always suspicious.”

She explained: “There’s no routine there, it’s not someone throwing his garbage out, it’s an explosive.”

She recalls seeing an elderly shepherd, “a grandpa, a really old man with his sheep,” too close to the fence. She reported him to the combat engineering force. “I was conditioned to see shepherds and sheep herds as intelligence scouts.”

Israeli forces fired in the air, startling the sheep, but the shepherd remained. Soldiers then shot the ground near the sheep “and they were startled again but the shepherd was determined to stay there. He didn’t want to leave, he wanted to stay there.”

The soldiers shot a sheep.

“(The shepherd) went to the sheep and tried to pick it up and it was full of blood and he tried to pick it up and take it back and they continued to shoot.”

“The sheep didn’t die but he had to leave it there and run away, they would’ve shot him and the rest of the sheep. He ran back and the sheep stayed there until it died.”

“Seeing it from the other side, it was like a video game, so detached from reality. So what if we shoot animals.

“(For the Palestinians) it’s the exact opposite … people just come and shoot your animals, your livelihood, you. And it’s fine. It’s like it’s fine.

“We’re ruining people’s lives on a daily basis.”

Yael said she was testifying because she thought “people should know what’s happening there.”

“It’s not the Israeli Defense Force defending us against horrible terrorists who want to destroy the Jewish people. They are people who live here and who have lived here when we weren’t here and they’re trying to live and we’re the stronger power. And we use that power full on, without any problem. I think people should know that.”

In other testimonies, a soldier describes an incident in which a company of soldiers, including the battalion commander, assaulted a detained Palestinian.

A soldier in an elite unit recalls an officer being ridiculed for not following an order to shoot an elderly, sick Palestinian who had gone back into his home to get his medication during an arrest raid.

The full testimonies can be viewed at www.discovertheterritories.com

Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad al-Yaqoubi on Syria’s Bloody Road to Democracy

The Seven Guantánamo Prisoners Whose Appeals Were Turned Down by the Supreme Court

Adnan Farhan Abdul LatifAdnan Farhan Abdul Latif, one of seven Guantánamo prisoners whose appeals were turned down this week by the Supreme Court.

By Andy Worthington

This week, the Supreme Court took a decision not to accept appeals by seven Guantánamo prisoners who, over the last few years, either had their habeas petitions denied, or had their successful petitions overturned on appeal. The ruling came the day before the 4th anniversary of Boumediene v. Bush, the 2008 case in which the Supreme Court granted the prisoners constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights.

That led to a number of stunning court victories for the prisoners between 2008 and 2010, but in the last two years no prisoners have had their habeas petitions granted, because judges in the D.C. Circuit Court, a bastion of Bush-era paranoia about the “war on terror,” where the deeply Conservative Senior Judge A. Raymond Randolph holds sway, have unfairly rewritten the rules in the government’s favor, so that it is now almost impossible for a habeas petition to be granted.

This is a particularly low point in Guantánamo’s bleak history, because, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to rescue habeas corpus, and its death as a remedy for the Guantánamo prisoners, the remaining 169 men — and especially the 87 already cleared for release but still held — are now trapped, possibly forever, because all three branches of the U.S. government have failed them.

In addition to the Supreme Court, the Obama administration has failed the remaining prisoners, not only through the President’s failure to close Guantánamo within a year, as he promised, but also through his refusal, ever since, to show any interest in belatedly fulfilling his promise. Blame also lies with Congress, where lawmakers have cynically imposed onerous restrictions on the ability of the administration to release or transfer any of the remaining prisoners, with the intention of making it impossible for the administration to close the prison — and almost impossible for anyone to be released.

As Tom Wilner (attorney and “Close Guantánamo” steering committee member) noted back in January, a waiver exists in the latest legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), allowing the President to bypass Congress when it comes to releasing prisoners, but President Obama has not yet chosen to use it.

Last week, we secured some good coverage for our exclusive report, “Guantánamo Scandal: The 40 Prisoners Still Held But Cleared for Release At Least Five Years Ago,” with the report’s author, Andy Worthington, being interviewed on RT andDemocracy Now! to discuss not only the report, revealing the identities of 40 prisoners cleared for release between 2004 and 2007, but also the Supreme Court’s shameful abdication of its responsibilities.

Some of the coverage focused on the story of one of the men whose appeals were turned down, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni. Noticeably, he is one of the prisoners featured in our report, and in fact he had his release approved on three separate occasions before the D.C. Circuit Court intervened to trap him at Guantánamo, possibly for the rest of his life.

Latif was cleared by a military review board under President Bush in December 2006, by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama in 2009, and by Judge Anthony Kennedy Jr., of the District Court in Washington D.C., who granted his habeas corpus petition in July 2010.

When the D.C. Circuit Court intervened to prevent his release,overturning his successful habeas petition in November last year, two of the three judges ordered that “a presumption of regularity” should be given to an intelligence report that was central to the government’s case against Latif, who has always maintained that he traveled to Pakistan to secure treatment for a head injury sustained in a car crash in Yemen, and was then advised to seek help in Afghanistan.

In a dissenting opinion, the third judge, David Tatel, took exception to his colleagues’s demands, noting that an intelligence report was “produced in the fog of war, by a clandestine method that we know almost nothing about,” and could not, therefore, be regarded as necessarily reliable. He also — unlike the Supreme Court — noted that it was “hard to see what is left of the Supreme Court’s command” that the habeas review process be “meaningful,” in light of his colleagues’ ruling, and warned that, in future, if the ruling stood, it would be impossible for any prisoner to have their habeas petition granted.

In reflecting on this dreadful state of affairs, it is impossible not to notice the gulf between the courage of Judge Tatel compared to the justices of the Supreme Court, who refused — unanimously, but without elaboration — to accept Latif’s appeal, even though Latif had a compelling case, in which, as Lyle Denniston noted for SCOTUSblog, he challenged “the presumption of accuracy of US intelligence reports,” challenged the Circuit Court’s “power to find facts on its own,” and also challenged the Circuit Court’s “refusal to uphold any release order.”

In considering Latif’s case, it occurred to me that the other six prisoners had also, to varying degrees, been failed disgracefully by the Supreme Court — and, in some cases at least, by the Obama administration, which had proceeded with cases through the Justice Department, even when there were sometimes clear reasons for officials not to do so.

Hussein Almerfedi

Latif’s case — with his repeated history of being cleared — was one example, but another was that of Hussein Almerfedi, another Yemeni, who, as noted in the “Guantánamo Scandal” report, was approved for transfer, probably in 2008, by an unidentified “Designated Civilian Official,” and then had his habeas petition granted by Judge Paul Friedman in July 2010, only for that ruling to be reversed on appeal in July 2011.

Almerfedi, seized in Iran, and held in secret prisons in Afghanistan before his transfer to Guantánamo, had challenged the government’s detention authority if, as he claimed in his case, it was “based on non-incriminating facts.” He, like Latif, also challenged the Circuit Court’s “refusal to uphold any release order,” as well as asking about the validity of a detainee being required to “rebut government evidence found to be credible,” when he had — and has — no means of doing so.

Fayiz al-Kandari

The point about the inability to refute evidence, as with Latif’s challenge to the requirement that the government’s evidence should be automatically regarded as accurate, found an echo in a challenge by a third prisoner, Fayiz al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti who lost his habeas petition in September 2010, after the Circuit Court rewrote the rules. Al-Kandari has always insisted that he traveled to Afghanistan to provide humanitarian aid, and the case against him is desperately weak, as it relies almost entirely on statements made by unreliable witnesses. However, the Circuit Court’s rewriting of the rules trapped al-Kandari, who, as a result, was calling on the Supreme Court to to allow him the right to restrict the government’s use of hearsay evidence.

Despite the lack of evidence against him, al-Kandari has never been cleared for release — either by military officials, or by a judge — but another of the seven, Uthman Abdul Rahman Mohammed Uthman, another Yemeni, had. Uthman’s habeas corpus petition was granted in February 2010, but the government appealed, and his successful opinion was reversed on appeal in March 2011. He took a different approach, challenging the government’s right to detain someone who, as he claimed in his case, “did not actually fight against U.S. or allied forces and provided no direct support to terrorists.” He also claimed that it was a “violation of the habeas Suspension Clause if habeas review is not meaningful.”

These, too, were valid points, which, like all the others, were turned down by the Supreme Court without explanation.

The last three men had less reason for hoping that the Supreme Court would look favorably on their cases, as they all had their habeas petitions denied by the District Court for low-level or peripheral involvement with the Taliban, and it is apparently outside anyone’s remit to ask why it is that the justification for all the prisoners’ detention — the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress the week after the 9/11 attacks — fails to distinguish between those allegedly involved with the international terrorist activities of al-Qaeda, and those involved with the Taliban’s military conflict with the Northern Alliance, which had nothing to do with terrorism, and predated the 9/11 attacks.

Musa'ab al-Madhwani

Of these men, Musa’ab al-Madhwani, one of six men seized in house raids in Pakistan in September 2002, who lost his habeas petition in December 2009, when Judge Thomas Hogan made a point of stating that he did not consider him to be a threat to the U.S., challenged his detention “based on ‘guilt by association’ with suspected terrorists,” which was “based on visits to guesthouses and training facilities,” as SCOTUSblog described it, and also called for a “right to constitutional due process protection.”

Muaz al-Alawi (described as al-Alwi), who lost his habeas petition in January 2009 for being a lowly Talban foot soldier, challenged his detention “based on ties to the Taliban after hostilities had ended,” and also claimed there was “inadequate time” for his attorney to prepare a defense.

The last of the seven, Tawfiq al-Bihani, who lost his habeas petition in October 2010 — also for being a lowly Taliban foot soldier, seized in Iran, like Hussein Almerfedi, and also held in secret prisons in Afghanistan before his transfer to Guantánamo — sought “a basic definition of detention power, limited by the laws of war,” but like all the other claims, it was apparently regarded as irrelevant by the Supreme Court.

I hope this provides some additional context for the Supreme Court’s decision, on Monday, to accept that Judge Randolph and his colleagues are now in charge of the legal legacy of George W. Bush’s “war on terror” detainee policy. If you wish to know more, SCOTUSblog has links to all the court submissions, by both the prisoners and the government.

From our point of view, here at “Close Guantánamo,” it only confirms our resolve to keep pushing for the closure of Guantánamo, and the release of the 87 men held hostage for political reasons, and we will be working hard to build our campaign in preparation for putting pressure on whoever will be inaugurated as the next President of the United States in January 2013. If you haven’t already signed up, please do so here (just an email address required), and please also ask your friends and family to join up as well. It is time to bring this monstrous miscarriage of justice to an end.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on FacebookTwitterDigg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.


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