During the first week of October 2014, I plan to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as a representative of the U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP), which is also known as the Gitmo Observer. While at GTMO, I plan to observe military proceedings in a capital case against Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri, whom the United States Government has accused of planning the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000, which resulted in the deaths of 17 U.S. sailors.
The U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP or Gitmo Observer) was established by the IU McKinney Program in International Human Rights Law. MCOP was granted “NGO Observer Status” by the Pentagon in 2014. This means that MCOP representatives may travel to Guantanamo Bay (or view a secure video link at Fort Meade in Maryland) to observe trial procedures at GTMO that are otherwise inaccessible to the public.
As an NGO Observer, MCOP seeks to ensure that fair trial rights are afforded to all stakeholders in the observed proceedings. These stakeholders include the defendant(s), victims and family members of, and the prosecution. Representatives of MCOP will observe, document, critique, and analyze these proceedings with the help of a Fair Trials Manual and Checklist, which can be accessed here.
My Interest in the Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions
My interest in MCOP emerged from a variety of sources, including an overseas international human rights internship, classes in law school, and a growing desire to get more international human rights work experience, specifically in the context of military tribunals.
This summer I interned with an Australian NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) called “Australians Detained Abroad,” which assists Australian citizens that have been detained in foreign countries. One of my main tasks at ADA was to assist in the defense of an Australian citizen named Dragan Vasiljković, who has been accused by Croatia of war crimes allegedly committed during the Yugoslav Wars. At ADA I worked under the supervision of Lt. Col. Michael “Dan” Mori, who before retiring from the U.S. military was U.S. military defense counsel for David Hicks, an Australian citizen detained in Guantanamo Bay and accused of furnishing material support for terrorism. This experience increased my interest in the fair trial rights of stakeholders in military tribunals. While in Australia I assisted with edits to the Fair Trial Checklist that MCOP had launched during a visit to Guantanamo Bay to assist other NGO Observers in helping to ensure that fair trial rights are being afforded to all stakeholders in the GTMO proceedings.
Class Project — Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual & Checklist
This fall at IU McKinney Law School, I have taken a course on International Criminal Law taught by Professor George Edwards, who also founded MCOP and heads IU McKinney’s Program in International Human Rights Law. As part of this course, I have assisted in developing a Fair Trial Manual for future NGO Observers (including MCOP) who will observe criminal proceedings at Guantanamo Bay. The manuel aims to give observers a better idea of what constitutes a fair trial, as well as the sorts of questions to ask of stakeholders at the hearings. I have focused on the right to adequate time and facilities, which is guaranteed under numerous international documents, including the American Convention, Article 8(2)(c), and the International Criminal Court Statute, Article 67(1)(b).
My future posts
I will post additional blog entries as my departure nears. I will also be blogging throughout my time in Guantanamo Bay, which is scheduled to take place between October 6 and October 11. I will include photos at the base, as well as details about the proceedings against al Nashiri.