Annual Report: United States Of America 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: United States Of America 2011

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Five Guantánamo detainees accused of involvement in the attacks of 11 September 2001 - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, ‘Ali ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and Mustafa al Hawsawi - remained in Guantánamo at the end of the year, 13 and a half months after Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the five would be transferred for prosecution in a federal court in New York. The five detainees had been held incommunicado for up to four years in secret US custody before being transferred to Guantánamo in 2006. They were charged in 2008 for trial by military commission.

By the end of the year, there was still only one Guantánamo detainee who had been transferred to the US mainland for prosecution in a federal court. In November, Tanzanian national Ahmed Ghailani, who had been transferred from Guantánamo in 2009, was convicted by a US District Court in New York of involvement in the bombings of two US embassies in east Africa in 1998. In pre-trial rulings in May and July, the judge had denied defence motions to dismiss the indictment against Ahmed Ghailani on the grounds that he had been tortured in secret CIA custody prior to being transferred to Guantánamo in 2006 or that he had been denied the right to a speedy trial in the five years he had spent in CIA and then military custody prior to being transferred to New York. Ahmed Ghailani was due to be sentenced in January 2011.

US detentions in Afghanistan

Hundreds of detainees were held in the newly constructed US Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP) on the Bagram air base in Afghanistan; the DFIP replaced the Bagram Theater Internment Facility in late 2009. For example, about 900 detainees were being held in the DFIP in September. Most of them were Afghan nationals, taken into custody by coalition forces in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The US authorities stated that the DFIP would eventually be transferred to the control of the Afghan authorities "for incarceration of criminal defendants and convicts", and that "transitioning operations" would begin in January 2011. The speed of transition, the Pentagon said in October, would depend, among other things, on "operational conditions", Afghan judicial capacity, and whether the Afghan government was "fully trained and equipped to perform its prosecution and incarceration responsibilities in accordance with its international obligations and Afghan law".

Litigation continued in the USA on the question of whether detainees held at Bagram should have access to the US courts to be able to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. In May, the US Court of Appeals overturned a 2009 ruling by a District Court judge that three Bagram detainees - who were not Afghan nationals and were taken into custody outside Afghanistan - could file habeas corpus petitions in his court. After the Court of Appeals refused to reconsider its decision in July 2010, US lawyers for the detainees returned to the District Court to pursue the litigation, which was continuing at the end of the year.

Amnesty International and other organizations wrote to the US Secretary of Defense in June raising concerns about allegations that detainees held in a screening facility at Bagram air base had been subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, including prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation and exposure to extreme temperatures.

Impunity

There continued to be an absence of accountability and remedy for the human rights violations, including the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance, committed as part of the USA's programme of secret detention and rendition (transfer of individuals from the custody of one state to another by means that bypass judicial and administrative due process) operated under the administration of President George W. Bush.

In his memoirs, published in November, and in a pre-publication interview, former President Bush admitted that he had personally authorized "enhanced interrogation techniques" for use by the CIA against detainees held in secret custody. One of the techniques he said he authorized was "water-boarding", a form of torture in which the process of drowning a detainee is begun.