Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor Brigadier General Mark Martins met with 8 NGO Observers who traveled to Guantanamo Bay for hearings in the 9-11 case and for the arraignment in the case against Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi. These proceedings occurred at Gitmo during the week of 16 – 20 June 2014. At the meeting with the NGOs, General Martins discussed a wide range of issues related to the Military Commissions, including the range of charges brought against various accused, the suitability of these cases being tried at Guantanamo Bay (more…)
Before I went to Fort Meade to view the trial, I watched several interviews on Youtube which discussed Guantanamo Bay issues. I want to share with everyone reading this blog two of the interviews, because the topics they discussed are extremely relevant to the June 16th hearing concerning the alleged architects of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center & Pentagon.
Tom Woods Show Interview
First I want to talk about an interview I heard on the Tom Woods Show between historian and author Thomas Woods and Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com. The interview took place on June 12, 2014. Mr. Raimondo stated that a large portion of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were not terrorist. He stated that the U.S. military would pay Afghanistan farmers and peasants large amounts of cash to capture and turn in potential terrorist to (more…)
On June 16, 2014, I attended the hearing of persons accused of masterminding the attacks of 11 September 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The hearing was aired via a secure video line to Ft. Meade. I have conflicting thoughts about the whole process.
Alleged Mistreatment of 9-11 Defendants
The first thing that caught my attention is the defense team of Ramzi bin al-Shibha (RBS) mentioned that RBS was mistreated repeatedly inside the prison. The prison guards give RBS a hard time. This includes the night just before the hearing when the guards awakened RBS after he just fall asleep. I looked up on the internet and found a video from Al Jazeera Arabic about the same topic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JBjDntXEOU). The (more…)
Arriving at Ft. Meade, June 16, 2014
I arrived at Ft. Meade a little before 8:00 am on Monday morning to make sure I didn’t miss any of the hearings. After my last experience of missing everything due to a schedule change, I didn’t want to take any chances. Fortunately, there was a very short line to get into the base and I was waived in after telling the guards what I was coming
onto the base for. They seemed surprised that the Military Commission hearings were being broadcast on the base.
The next step was to figure out where on the base the theatre was. After stumbling around driving for a while I first (more…)
Today I observed hearings in the 9/11 case of KSM and 4 other defendants. Before I go into detail about the day, I want to mention my overall impression, which is one of shock and dismay. Given the arguments today, I can only say that I feel like this whole process seems like a sham, like the government is putting the defendants through the process to give the impression that they are being given a just trial. However, there is far too much happening behind the scenes that indicates that there are serious issues regarding the government’s behavior throughout the proceedings and in the handling of these defendants. It was shocking and disappointing. The victims’ families, this country, and the defendants deserve justice. I’m unsure whether this process is providing (more…)
The first afternoon at Guantanamo Bay (Saturday) was of great interest. It was busy with administrative formalities and orientation. More to come later.
But here’s a photo of me on the Air Force C-17 aircraft en route to Guantanamo Bay.
(The person sitting behind me to my left with his face turned is Ben Fox, Chief of Bureau for AP in the Caribbean.)
Professor Andrew Clapham, Mr. Evan Methaney & Professor George Edwards, waiting for the flight to board the flight to Guantánamo Bay. Note the The Gitmo Observer Briefing Book, which has been a big hit!
It’s barely 4:30 a.m. and I’m leaving my Washington, DC hotel bound for my flight to Guantanamo Bay. I’m expected to be at Andrews Air Force Base by 5:40 a.m.
The taxi just cruised past the White House…and there’s the Washington Monument. These landmarks call to mind the concepts of human rights, the rule of law, and in the case of Guantanamo Bay, the right to a fair trial.
I have been entrusted, along with other GTMO monitors, to try to ascertain whether all Guantanamo Bay stakeholder rights are being afforded to them. The accused have the right to a fair trial, and so to does the prosecution. Families of the victims also have the right to a fair trial.
I will report in later. Photos are forthcoming.
After receiving the documents corresponding to the hearings for the week of June 15th, I was anxious to review them. I sat down this morning to look over them, and now, I am ready and excited about next week.
The hearing next week is about FBI contact with a Defense Security Officer (DSO officer) and whether it creates a conflict of interest for defense counsel. Regardless of how the judge decides to proceed in this matter, it is concerning to me that the government seems to be uninterested in the way its actions are perceived or the effects they may cause. This contact could lead (more…)
As this is my first post, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Megan Alvarez, a 2009 graduate of the IU McKinney law school. I am now an immigration attorney and program director of the Paralegal Studies program at Ivy Tech Community College in Evansville. I was very fortunate to take part in many opportunities that were offered through the Program in International Human Rights Law during my time in school.
I am now honored to be a part of this project. I will be traveling to Ft. Meade to observe hearings during the week of June 15.
Specifically, I will be observing hearings in the cases against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and Abd al Hadi. KSM is the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abd al Hadi is an alleged senior member of al-Qaeda, who (more…)
The words Indianapolis attorney Richard Kammen used to describe the trials taking place at Guantanamo Bay are jarring – “legally grotesque situation,” “huge stain on American justice,” “secret expedient rigged justice.”
Then he noted the situation of alleged terrorists being put on trial for acts of terrorism and murder is not black and white. There is (more…)
(This article by Marilyn Odendahl was originally published on 4 June 2014 in The Indiana Lawyer at this link) Sitting in a hotel room, preparing to watch a video cast of a hearing with Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, one of the alleged masterminds behind the bombing of the USS Cole, Whitney Coffin considered the process of using military commissions to try suspected terrorists. “Before I actually see the hearing, my pre-impression is this is the best way to do it,” Coffin, a 2014 graduate of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, said. “Some push to put this in federal courts, but what state is (more…)
On 2 June 2014, the Military Commission Convening Authority authorized the prosecution of Abd al Hadi Iraqi, an alleged senior member of al Qaeda. The charge sheet alleges that from 1996 to 2006, Abd al Hadi and others engaged in terrorism, attacked civilians, employed poison or similar weapons, murdered protected persons, and committed other crimes.
Abd al Hadi allegedly paid an award for the assassination of United Nations personnel, provided funding for suicide attacks, and served as al Qaeda liaison to al Qaeda in Iraq.
He is charged with leading an al Qaeda team that helped the Taliban destroy the Buddha statues of Bamiyan, Afghanistan.
Abd al Hadi Court Documents
The Charge Sheet in the Abd al Hadi case can be found here: Charge Sheet.
The Arraignment Order for the 18 June 2014 proceeding can be found here: Arraignment Order.
Other Court Documents can be found here: Court Docket – Abd al Hadi
Arraignment — Eligibility for IU McKinney Affiliates to view the Arraignment live
Abd al Hadi is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP) is expected to be represented at the Guantanamo Bay arraignment by Professor George Edwards, who will be at Guantanamo Bay that week for hearings in the 9-11 case.
MCOP representatives scheduled to be at Ft. Meade for simultaneous secure CCTV of the arraignment include Megan Alvarez, Sukrat Baber, Whitney Coffin, Chuck Dunlap and Kristi McMains.
Other IU McKinney Law School Affiliates interested in monitoring the arraignment at Ft. Meade may visit this link and submit a statement of interest.
Discussions with the Congressman
Yesterday I had the honor to meet with Lee Hamilton, former Congressman from Indiana and Co-Chair of the 9-11 Commission. We talked about a range of issues, most notably Guantanamo Bay and the work being done by the Military Commission Observation Project of Indiana University McKinney School of Law.
Our meeting, that was arranged by Mr. Chuck Dunlap of the Indiana Bar Foundation, happened to take place four days after the U.S. swapped five Guantanamo Bay prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who had been held captive by the Taliban for five years. It was also the day after the Pentagon announced that charges were being formalized in a Guantanamo Bay case against another accused, Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, a former CIA prisoner who is alleged to have been a high-ranking al Qaeda arrived at Guantánamo in 2007 who allegedly killed Canadians and U.S. soldiers.
Due Process and Fairness
Echoed throughout our hour-long discussion with Congressman Hamilton were the concepts of due process and fairness. I concluded that Congressman Hamilton believes that fairness and due process should guide the U.S. Government through every step of the Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions. Not only should the Military Commissions be fair, but also the proceedings should appear to be fair. Due process should be provided to all. Transparency is critically important. Furthermore, I concluded that he believes that independent monitors like our MCOP participants should approach their jobs with open minds, and should be prepared to report not only any deficiencies spotted within the Commissions, but also to report any commendable aspects of the Commissions.
Right to a Fair Trial
I shared with the Congressman my belief that regarding the Military Commissions, all stakeholders have the right to a fair trial. The accused are stakeholders, and they have the right to a fair trial. The prosecution, which represents we the people, are stakeholders, and they have the right to a fair trial. The victims and the families of the victims are also stakeholders and they have the right to a fair trial.
Military Commission Observation Project participants have an obligation to monitor the proceedings, and to ascertain based on the law and the facts whether we believe all stakeholders are being provided with their fair trial rights. That is, we as monitors draw conclusions as to whether we believe the proceedings are complying with U.S. and international law, or whether the proceedings are not complying with U.S. and international law.
Decades of Wisdom and Experience
It was a delight to hear Congressman Hamilton share stories from his law practice days (including when Indiana had “paupers’ attorneys”), his many years in Congress, and his Co-Chairmanship of the 9-11 Commission. I look forward to visiting with Congressman Hamilton again, perhaps after my next visit to Guantanamo Bay, which is scheduled for the week of 16 – 20 June 2014. I am scheduled to monitor hearings in the case of Khalid Shaik Mohammad and others accused of masterminding the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and to monitor the arraignment of Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, the latest Guantanamo prisoner to be approved for trial.
Arrival after hearings closed to Observers!
I arrived at Ft. Meade last Wednesday afternoon, and was therefore, unable to attend the only day of the al-Nashiri USS Cole hearing open to the NGO observers last week. The Judge decided to hold the rest of the hearings for the week in closed session.
Although I am disappointed that I was unable to observe the hearing, I am more than obliged to provide my thoughts on the hearing after reading the transcripts. I have now had the opportunity to read the three separate transcripts covering the al-Nashiri hearing as well as the perspectives of two student observers who (more…)
What to do at Ft. Meade when Observers are barred from hearings?
The Judge in the al Nashiri case determined that hearings for the remainder of the week were to be classified. NGO Observers, like those of us representing the IU McKinney Military Commission Observation Project, are not permitted to monitor classified hearings.
After receiving word that the hearings were done for the week for us, I scrambled to catch a flight back to Indianapolis on Thursday (what would have been the second day of hearings for this week). I was hopeful that my (more…)
On the final two days of scheduled hearing days at Guantanamo Bay, the hearings either ended early or were deemed classified. The NGO Observers were excluded from classified hearings. Thus, we had lots of time to explore Guantanamo Bay.
What to do at GTMO when there are no hearings?
With significant down time when we can’t monitor hearings, there were still a number of ways for us to fill our time in Guantanamo.
The Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) wing of the military has a heavy presence and their mission is to ensure military members have relaxing and appropriate non-work related activities to maintain somewhat of a normalized life experience in such a secluded location. They have an outdoor movie theater that plays brand new movies most evenings. They provide cook out facilities at the beach. There is a golf course and dive shop. With time to kill, we were able to take our pick on how we wanted to pass our time.
Our first stop was Radio Gitmo, which is in charge of the airwaves on base. They host three radio stations and sell a popular Fidel Castro bobble head. After a tour of the facilities (I had never been in a radio station before) we got to see the back room where they still maintain a huge collection of vinyls. Our guide noted it was the largest vinyl collection in the military and they still regularly play them on the air.
Camp X-Ray – A familiar site
On our way back from Radio Gitmo, we drove past the infamous Camp X-Ray site. This camp was the very first one to hold detainees after 9-11 until Camp Delta was built. After the transfer to Camp Delta, the military wished to raze Camp X-Ray, but a US court ordered it preserved as evidence. We were not allowed to take picture of it, but there are pictures you can find online from those authorized to take them. Its current condition is one of (more…)