Cancellation of October Hearings and Related Fair Trial Concerns (Luke Purdy)

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.

The fair trials checklist, which I had planned to bring with me to Guantanamo Bay and distribute to observers from various NGOs, lists potential warning signs of undue delay, based on research into case law and secondary sources detailing the ICCPR’s requirements of the right to trial without undue delay. Relevant queries include: whether logistical issues contributed to trial delay, and whether a delay was caused by the judge’s failure to rule on motions in a timely fashion. Granted, I was not present to observe the reasons for the present postponement. The present delay simply raises a concern about whether the Government has granted Al Nashiri his right to have the case against him resolved efficiently.

 Planned Travel to Fort Meade, Maryland for Khalid Shaikh Mohammad Hearings 

Image of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad

Image of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, accused of involvement in various acts of terrorism, including the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

Next week I plan to travel to Fort Meade in Maryland to observe a live video feed to Guantanamo Bay for hearings in the U.S Government’s case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammad. Under “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Khalid Shaikh Mohammad confessed to masterminding multiple terrorist acts, including the 9/11 terrorist bombings. He has been in custody since 2003. In February 2008, the U.S. Government charged the defendant with war crimes and murder. If he is convicted of these crimes, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad will face the death penalty.

Assuming the hearings on Khalid Shaikh Mohammad go forward as scheduled, I plan to blog about my observations of the trial. I will also post pictures at the base and updates about the hearing.

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