I was honored to be selected last week to serve as an observer for the Al Nashiri (USS Cole Bombings) hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba the week of Nov. 3-7. I have previously participated in the Program in International Human Rights Law and its U.S. Military Commission Observation Project at IU McKinney Law School in mid-June, 2014. At that time, I observed the hearings of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad and the other accused 9-11 co-conspirators via a secured video link at Ft. Meade in Maryland. This June trip was after an earlier scheduled hearing I was planning on attending was canceled at the last minute due to a schedule change by the presiding judge. Since then, and based on what has happened to other participants in this program, one thing I fully count on is last minute schedule changes. For that reason, I’m trying not to get my hopes up to high about observing the hearings until I am actually on the plane headed to Cuba.
Plans for Future Blogging
The overall mission of the IU McKinney School of Law’s Program in International Human Rights Law and the U.S. Military Commission Observation Project is to “Observe, Analyze, Critique, and Publish materials on the hearings.” As I prepare for the trip I will be posting several bog entries about various aspects of this assignment including the preparation process, preliminary research, work on the Fair Trial Manual, and of course the actual hearings. From what I hear, due to the lack of Wi-Fi and internet access at the base (at least for NGO’s and journalists) much of my reporting of my observations from the actual hearings may be more post-visit than actually during the week of my visit. (more…)
My upcoming mission to Guantanamo Bay
Late last week I was honored to learn I have been nominated by Indiana’s Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP) and approved by the Office of Military Commissions to travel to Guantanamo Bay to observe the November 17-21 pretrial hearings in the case against Hadi al Iraqi. I had the good fortune to travel to Fort Meade in April of this year to observe via secure video link a set of hearings in the case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammad (KSM) and his co-conspirators in the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks. I am very much looking forward to observing more hearings in person at Guantanamo Bay.
Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual
In preparation for my upcoming trip to GTMO I have begun studying MCOP’s indispensible Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual. The Fair Trial Manual focuses on assisting observers in assessing whether the rights of all stakeholders in the Military Commission proceedings are adequately protected. And while one frequently thinks of the right to a “fair trial” as belonging only to the accused person, I recognize now that this is too narrow an understanding of the concept. As the Fair Trial Manual makes apparent, a somewhat disparate set of individuals and organizations have an interest in the outcome of Military Commission proceedings, and, concomitantly, in their fairness. Just as in traditional criminal trials, the crime victims and their families have an interest in a fair proceeding with a just outcome. A conviction which is later reversed due to a faulty proceeding serves no one, including (and perhaps especially) the victims. (more…)
On June 24, 2007, while on the Presidential campaign trail, Illinois Senator Barack Obama stated to a crowd in Texas, “We’re going to close Guantanamo. And we’re going to restore habeas corpus.” Now President Barack Obama is trying to honor that promise.
One way President Barack Obama could close Guantanamo Bay is by vetoing the annual defense spending bill. The 113th Congress drafted Senate Bill 2410, known as the “Carl Levin National Defense Authorization Act” for Fiscal Year 2015. The National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision which prohibits the President of the United States from transferring the remaining 149 detainees to the U.S.
The provision reads:
SEC. 1031.LIMITATION ON THE TRANSFER OR RELEASE OF INDIVIDUALS DETAINED AT UNITED STATES NATIONAL STATION, GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA.
(a) In General- Except as provided in subsection (b), none of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act for fiscal year 2015 may be used to transfer, release, or assist in the transfer or release to or within the United States, its territories, or possessions of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any other detainee who–
(1) is not a United States citizen or a member of the Armed Forces of the United States; and
(2) is or was held on or after January 20, 2009, at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by the Department of Defense.
(b) Transfer for Detention and Trial- The Secretary of Defense may transfer a detainee described in subsection (a) to the United States for detention pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40), trial, and incarceration if the Secretary–
(1) determines that the transfer is in the national security interest of the United States;
(2) determines that appropriate actions have been taken, or will be taken, to address any risk to public safety that could arise in connection with detention and trial in the United States; and
(3) notifies the appropriate committees of Congress not later than 30 days before the date of the proposed transfer.
If President Barack Obama vetoed the legislation though, Congress could override the veto with a two-thirds vote of both houses, whereupon the legislation would become law. (more…)
On September 29 I was notified by the Pentagon that the October hearings for Al Nashiri had been cancelled. Consequently, I was unable to travel to Guantanamo Bay for the hearings scheduled between October 7-10. The Pentagon did not provide an explanation for the cancellation. Al Nashiri’s next court hearing at Guantanamo Bay is not scheduled until the week of November 3rd of this year.
The delay in the case against Al Nashiri raises potential concerns for the defendant’s right to trial without undue delay, as set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as well as other international human rights documents like the Body of Principles on Detention, and the International Criminal Court Statute. The ICCPR, in Article 14(3)(c), guarantees all persons charged of criminal offenses the right “to be tried without undue delay.” In addition, Article 9(3) states that
Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgement.
One should note that Al Nashiri has been detained since November 2002 for his alleged role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, and that charges against him have been pending since 2008, though they were dropped dropped for three years until the Government reinstated them in 2011, the defendant remaining in custody throughout the intervening period. (more…)