Preparing to Travel to Guantanamo Bay (Jeff Papa)

front cover - Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial ChecklistIntroduction

I am scheduled to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for pre-trial hearings beginning Monday, 15 September 2014. I have reviewed many documents related to the case I will monitor – against alleged senior al Qaeda in Iraq official named Hadi al Iraqi, who is said to have been a liaison with the Taliban. Hadi al Iraqi’s charge sheet is posted here on the Gitmo Observer website, where other basic Military Commission documents can be found.

My role is as an “NGO Observer”, sent to monitor the proceedings and determine for myself whether, based on the law and my observations of facts, I believe that stakeholders are receiving a fair trial. My most important tool for preparing for this mission is the newly launched Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Checklist, which provides a framework for me to conduct monitoring.

The Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Checklist

I have read and re-read the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Checklist, which is an innovative document created by Professor George Edwards, the Founding Director of the Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL) of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law. Edwards is also the founder of The Gitmo Observer – also known as the U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP) of the PIHRL.

Volume I of the Checklist identifies a list of right for stakeholders during pre-trial hearings. While this document will be further developed by PIHRL students at the McKinney Law School, the current version includes a comprehensive list of rights for victims, victim’s families, the accused, the prosecution, the press, and witnesses. The Checklist is very easy to use, and should be utilized by any observer of commission proceedings, whether they want to quickly learn basic facts or want to study in great detail a particular hearing.

The Checklist contains sources of domestic U.S. and international law for reference, and provides easy to understand, but comprehensive, checklists for each possible right, as well as general background information. If you review available background information about a particular hearing you will monitor, and then reading through this Checklist step by step, you will gain a very deep understanding of the issues involved, as well as the likely legal arguments, strengths and weaknesses of each party’s position.

An Objective / Neutral Source

The Checklist provides an objective, neutral framework for analyzing the commission proceedings. The Checklist will become the standard document for those new to commission observation, as well as for seasoned experts.

Checklist Volume 1

Volume I of the Checklist  covers pre-trial hearing stage issues, as that is the current stage of the most Guantanamo Bay proceedings today. But many of the Checklist considerations are entirely relevant to other phases (pre-hearing, trial & judgment, and post-trial/post-judgment). Future Volumes of the Checklist are planned to cover these remaining phases in a comprehensive manner.

In the 2014 summer, I traveled to Ft. Meade, Maryland to observe a different Military Commission hearing. I did not have the benefit of the Checklist , which had not yet been created. I read many documents for the earlier proceeding. I wish I had had the Checklist then. In preparing for my hearings at Guantanamo Bay next week, I appreciate that the Checklist is well-organized and clarifies the issues in my mind, and provides a very logical flow regarding what issues are likely to arise in a particular proceeding.

This Checklist  will become the standard for reviewing commission proceedings. Following the Checklist through its stages is easy to follow, and ensures that all issues are covered. The references to source law and rights within the document is also extremely helpful.

The full name of the Checklist  is  the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Checklist for U.S. Military Commission Participants and Observers: A Guide for Assessing Human Rights Protections for the Prosecution and the Defense, Victims and Victims’ Families, Witnesses, the Press, NGO Observers, and Other Military Commission Stakeholders.

A copy of the current draft of this excellent resource can be found at

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