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Posts Tagged ‘guantanamo bay’

Fair trial my arse – NEW STATESMAN

Article featured in New Statesman – 14 Feb 2008

With Guantanamo Bay under the spotlight, Clive Stafford Smith explains why Reprieve’s campaign against illegal detention has joined up with a surprising partner…




REPRIEVE uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Working on the frontline, they provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. They promote the rule of law around the world, and secure each person’s right to a fair trial. REPRIEVE’s lawyers are currently representing over 30 prisoners in Guantánamo Bay. They also assist British nationals facing the death penalty around the world, and are conducting investigations into ‘extraordinary renditions’ and secret prisons in the so-called ‘War on Terror.’ For more information regarding REPRIEVE please visit:

Humanade is funding REPRIEVE’s ‘Next Friend’ Investigator to work to reunite ‘Ghost Prisoners’ being held in US Sponsored Secret Prisons around the world with the rule of law.

When a prisoner is held by the US, or one of its proxy states, a habeas corpus challenge to the prisoner’s illegal detention can only be brought with permission from the prisoner or someone close to him. Since the prisoner is held incommunicado, this means inevitably that the person giving authorisation must be a family member or other ‘next friend’ (the legal term). None of the prisoners in Guantánamo Bay could secure legal representation were it not for the ‘next friend authorisations’ that have been secured from their family members all around the world.

With Humanade’s support, REPRIEVE has been able to gain authorisations from family members and to build ground-breaking cases – in jurisdictions around the world – that directly challenge the US-led policies of torture and disappearance.

Thanks to Humanade, REPRIEVE represents five new prisoners tortured in CIA prisons and the Next Friend investigator has directly assisted well over 100 people held in secret US prisons in the Horn of Africa, North Africa and Pakistan.  With the assistance of Humanade, Reprieve is building strong and strategically key cases that directly challenge the US practise of “disappearance”, and is able to engage in cutting-edge, cross-jurisdictional litigation with partners across three continents – in Europe, the US and Africa.

The 280 prisoners in Guantánamo Bay are only a small minority of the total number of prisoners held out of reach of the rule of law in the name of the US “War on Terror.” We believe there are at least 17,000 “ghost prisoners” in US custody, so the Guantánamo prisoners comprise a small minority of the total.  The other unfortunate ghost prisoners are in secret prisons scattered from Asia to Africa and the Middle East.  None has been allowed access to lawyers or courts.  This is the focus of the REPRIEVE ‘Next Friend’ Investigator position, funded by Humanade.

Thanks to Humanade’s support the outcome for this quarter is as follows:

During 2013 and 2014, thanks to Humanade’s funding:

Reprieve has reached some amazing heights in 2013 with support from Humanade. Below are a brief selection:

  • Our Stand Fast for Justice campaign won support the world over, and our short film featuring Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) being force-fed garnered over 6 million views on its first day alone. Through this campaign we brought Guantanamo Bay back into the public consciousness and placed it firmly on the political agenda, culminating in the release of Reprieve client Nabil Hadjarab. Astounding stuff. Here’s to further releases of cleared men next year.
  • In October, Reprieve brought a family of drone strike survivors to testify in front of Congress. This had never before been attempted – it was the first time that the US had heard directly from survivors of its shadowy war. Rafiq ur Rehman, a schoolteacher, and his two young children, Nabila and Zubair, talked about the blast that killed Mammana Bibi – Rafiq’s 67-year-old mother, and the children’s beloved grandmother. It was an incredibly moving and inspiring day, and the hearing was covered by all major US news outlets.
  • We continue to challenge illegitimate off-battlefield use of weaponised drones in Pakistan and Yemen. Reprieve Fellow, Baraa Shiban, has been working with the Yemeni National Dialogue, the body tasked with mapping out the country’s democratic future. In July, they voted by an overwhelming majority to ban extra-judicial killing, by drones or otherwise. The people of Yemen have clearly expressed their opposition to the use of drones – a significant development that undermines those who claim that there is widespread Yemeni support for drone strikes.
  • And besides all of this, over the past 12 months, Reprieve has also trained new human rights activists, developed networks of fellows and staff in the US, Indonesia, Pakistan and Yemen, and ensured that extreme human rights abuses are at the top of the media’s agenda. Not bad for 35 people in a small London office.

But these are not Reprieve’s achievements alone – they also belong to Humanade. You are helping Reprieve to drive change. Thank you so much for your support, and we look forward to fresh challenges next year, with you by our side.

During 2012 and 2013, thanks to Humanade’s funding:

Developments in Counter-Terror Strategies and Human Rights Violations:

Reprieve’s caseworker has continued with its new project to identify emerging patterns of human rights abuses connected to the war on terror. This project has been focusing on the Sahel region of North-West Africa, in particular Mali and Mauritania. In February REPRIEVE undertook an investigation trip to Paris, and made fruitful contact with a number of experts on the region.

In Romania:

In February 2013, a leading Romanian TV channel, Antena 1, broadcast a 10-part in-depth report on Romania’s role in the CIA prison system. REPRIEVE’s caseworker has been instrumental in this project since its inception and featured prominently in the programmes. An English version is forthcoming.

In Poland:

In January 2013, Reprieve’s caseworker assisted lawyers for Abu Zubaydah by drafting a new outline of his rendition history into and out of Poland, as part of Abu Zubaydah’s forthcoming application against Poland at the European Court of Human Rights. The case filing draws on documents uncovered in the course of Reprieve’s Renditions Inc. investigation, showing how a network of US companies, with worldwide logistical support, organised transfers of prisoners within the CIA’s secret prison system. Based on analysis of invoices, flight logs, cable traffic and contractual documents, the filing shows how Abu Zubaydah was taken from Thailand to Poland on 4 Dec. 2002, and then out of Poland to another black site on 23 Sept. 2003.

On 28 January 2013 Reprieve’s partners Interights filed an Introductory Complaint with the ECHR on behalf of Abu Zubaydah. REPRIEVE’s caseworker has given numerous interviews to Polish and international media concerning this case, and the Polish investigation more generally, in the last quarter.

Renditions in General:

Reprieve’s caseworker continued their work with the Rendition Project (, assisting them in compiling the world’s most comprehensive database of flights linked to the CIA’s secret prison programme.

In December Reprieve’s caseworker collaborated with the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. Assistance was gained by providing REPRIEVE with a briefing paper on investigations into the CIA’s secret detention programme.

A freedom of information request project specifically relating to Portugal’s renditions involvement is ongoing with partners Access Info Europe, and has recently produced some new documents.

Assistance to Legal Teams:

Reprieve’s caseworker has continued to liaise with US and European lawyers for ex-black site prisoners currently held in Guantanamo Bay, offering advice, analysis and documentary evidence to various legal teams.

During 2011 to 2012, thanks to Humanade’s funding:

In the Horn of Africa:
Reprieve visited a Tanzanian torture victim client with a team of medical doctors to develop a programme of medical and psychological support. We have now succeeded in putting in place a comprehensive programme of medical and psychiatric support for this client, and are working with our partners in the US and East Africa on a pilot project providing similar support to other such victims in the region.

Reprieve is working with partners to develop a regional accountability programme involving litigation at the East African Court of Justice, and a series of thematic hearings at the African Commission.

The imminent UK torture inquiry has put our UK litigation strategy on hold, however we are still actively gathering facts in relation to current illegal detention practices in the region that involve the UK, and will be feeding this into the inquiry.

In Afghanistan/Pakistan
Alongside colleagues in Reprieve and partner organisations, Reprieve has worked on filing suit in the US, the UK and Pakistan, for six Bagram prisoners, and obtained authorisations for four more since last quarter.

In Europe
Reprieve now has authorisation to represent two prisoners who were tortured in European CIA prisons – Abu Zubaydah and Abu Faraj al-Libbi. Reprieve arranged a meeting of key partners working on accountability in Poland and Lithuania, and we now have strong international teams working on cases in both jurisdictions. Reprieve is working on submissions that we hope to file in the next quarter in both cases.

Reprieve has also commenced litigation to force the British government to disclose the identities of two men it admits to having captured in Iraq and transferred to US custody for rendition to Bagram Airforce Base in Afghanistan, where they remain. Reprieve had obtained a significant amount of worrying information about the plight of the two men, and during the previous quarter, we commenced litigation for the two men, which attracted a great deal of media attention. During this recent quarter, Reprieve met with the family and obtained authorisation to represent the second “unknown prisoner”. We have now filed suit in the UK for this man.

Reprieve had investigated and provided a witness statement to show that the prisoner on board one of the conceded rendition flights through Diego Garcia was a Pakistani national called Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, and that he was en-route to Egypt where he endured months of torture before being taken to Afghanistan and then Guantanamo Bay. In the past month, we have received new – and currently confidential – new information in relation to detentions on Diego Garcia.

Since the new government came to power, Reprieve has been working hard to compel a comprehensive inquiry into UK involvement in torture. That inquiry was announced today, and Reprieve will continue to work to broaden the terms of the inquiry and bring to light important facts. You can read more here.

During 2009 and 2010 thanks to Humanade’s funding:
Humanade funded Reprieve’s “next friend investigator”, to work to reunite “ghost prisoners” being held in US sponsored prisons around the world with the rule of law. Yunus Rahmatullah – the Pakistani citizen held in Bagram Airforce Base whose release has recently been ordered – is one of a number of beneficiaries of Humanade’s funding.

In the first quarter of the grant, Reprieve reported that the “next friend investigator” had obtained a significant amount of worrying information about the plight of two men the British government admitted to having captured in Iraq and transferred to US custody for rendition to Afghanistan. Reprieve reported that as a result of these investigations, Reprieve were launching litigation to force the British government to urgently disclose the identities of the two men. In the face of British government refusals to identify the men, over the course of the second quarter, the Humanade grant enabled the “next friend investigator” to conduct an international investigation which resulted in them meeting with Yunus Rahtmatullah’s family, and obtaining authorisation to represent him. As a result of the Humanade-funded investigation, Reprieve were able to independently confirm that Yunus Rahmatullah was one of the two men captured by the British in Iraq and handed to the US for rendition to Bagram. At the end of the second quarter of the Humanade grant, on the basis of evidence gathered during the investigation, Reprieve filed suit for Yunus Rahmatullah in the UK.

Yunus Rahmatullah is one of ten Bagram prisoners (amongst many more worldwide) whose families were tracked down by Reprieve’s Humanade-funded “next friend investigator” during the course of the generous grant. Reprieve continue to work for the release of these prisoners. Reprieve believe that these fantastic results have now been able to obtain, with Humanade’s assistance, in Yunus Rahmatullah’s case will be of direct benefit to many others held “beyond the rule of law” in Bagram Airforce base and beyond.