Annual Report: United States of America 2013

May 29, 2013

Annual Report: United States of America 2013

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Head of state and government Barack H. Obama

Forty-three men were executed during the year, and concerns about cruel prison conditions continued. Scores of detainees remained in indefinite military detention at Guantánamo. Pre-trial proceedings continued in six cases in which the administration was intending to seek the death penalty following trials by military commission. Use of lethal force in the counter-terrorism context continued to raise serious concerns, as did continuing reports of the use of excessive force in domestic law enforcement.

Counter-terror and security

Detentions at Guantánamo

At the end of 2012, nearly three years after President Obama's deadline for closure of the Guantánamo detention facility, 166 men were still held at the base, the vast majority without charge or criminal trial.

Four men were transferred from the base during the year, two of whom had been convicted by military commission.Two Uighur detainees, who had been held without charge or trial at the base since 2002, were transferred to El Salvador in April for resettlement there.

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni national who had repeatedly expressed his distress at his indefinite detention without charge or trial, died during the year, bringing to nine the number of detainees known to have died at Guantánamo since January 2002.

During the year, the US Supreme Court refused to review petitions from a number of Guantánamo detainees whose detentions had been upheld by the Court of Appeals. Among other things, the petitions had asked the Supreme Court to consider whether its 2008 Boumediene v. Bush ruling – that the detainees had the right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in federal court – was being implemented in such a way as to deny the detainees the “meaningful” review promised.

Trials of Guantánamo detainees

In May, five Guantánamo detainees accused of leading involvement in the attacks in the USA of

11 September 2001 – Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, ‘Ali ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and Mustafa al Hawsawi – were arraigned for capital trial by military commission. The trials of the five men and that of ‘Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who had been arraigned for capital trial in 2011, had not begun by the end of 2012. Prior to their transfer to Guantánamo in 2006, the six men had been held incommunicado for up to four years in secret US custody, during which time at least two of them had been tortured.

In August, charges were sworn against Saudi Arabian national Ahmed Mohammed al Darbi. Arrested by civilian authorities in Azerbaijan in June 2002, he was transferred to US custody in August 2002 and to Guantánamo in March 2003. By the end of 2012, the charges against him had not been referred on for trial by military commission.

In February Pakistani national Majid Khan pleaded guilty to offences under the 2009 Military Commissions Act (MCA) before a military judge at Guantánamo. The terms of the pre-trial agreement would see him sentenced in or before February 2016 after having co-operated with the US authorities. Prior to being brought to Guantánamo in 2006, he had been held in secret US custody and allegedly tortured and otherwise ill-treated.

This brought to seven the number of people convicted by military commission at Guantánamo. Five had pleaded guilty in return for the possibility of early release from US custody. Two of the five were repatriated during 2012: Ibrahim al Qosi to Sudan in July, and Omar Khadr, who had been in US custody since the age of 15, to Canada in September.

In October, a US federal court overturned the 2008 conviction of Salim Hamdan for “material support for terrorism”. The US Court of Appeals ruled that “material support for terrorism” was not a war crime in US law prior to the enactment of the MCA.

US detentions in Afghanistan