Today is Veteran’s Day and I am spending my day off from work preparing to attend next week’s pretrial hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (November 17, 18, and 19, 2014) proceedings will resume in the case United States v. Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi. Abd al Hadi was brought to Guantanamo in 2007 after detention by the CIA. Abd al Hadi is charged with several war crimes arising out of his alleged role as an al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan during the years following the September 11th attacks.
The military judge’s order AE022 (corrected) enumerates the pretrial motions on the agenda for next week’s hearings. Prior to the hearings, the parties and judge will meet for a pretrial conference on Sunday afternoon, November 16 at 5:00 p.m. The hearings are scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. on Monday and will include discussion and argument regarding four pending motions:
- AE 018 – Defense Motion to Compel Discovery
- AE 019 – Defense Motion to Strike Common Allegations
- AE 020 – Defense Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction and to Compel a Status Determination pursuant to Article 5 of the Geneva Convention
- AE 021 – Emergency Defense Motion for Appropriate Relief to Cease Physical Contact with [Female] Guards
With regard to the last item, the judge issued an order on November 7 (AE021B) which has been reported to temporarily grant Abd al Hadi’s request for cessation of physical contact with female guards.
My Role at the Proceedings
As a non-governmental observer (NGO) attending the hearings under the auspices of the Military Commissions Observation Project (MCOP) of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL), I am tasked with the following duties:
- Attend the hearings each day as an informed observer.
- This requires a substantial commitment in terms of personal time and resources, including arranging for travel to Andrews Air Force Base, completing numerous government and MCOP documents, researching the status of the case and the motions to be heard next week, and reading and studying the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual prepared by MCOP.
- Objectively and with an open mind observe the proceedings and interact with stakeholders present on site (including prosecutors, defense counsel, press, and other NGOs) to glean as much information as possible about the experiences of all stakeholders holding rights to fair proceedings at Guantanamo.
- Analyze the hearings.
- My observer’s role on behalf of MCOP is to analyze to proceedings not so much from a substantive legal perspective, but rather to focus on the various fair trial rights of all stakeholders to the proceedings.
- Critique the hearings.
- This includes identifying both positive and negative aspects of the process, both in the abstract (e.g., as compared to other judicial processes) and in practice at the hearing site. Where possible, assess the fairness of the proceedings with regard to the various stakeholders.
- Report on the hearings.
- Disseminate, through the Gitmo Observer and otherwise, information about the hearing process and the fairness of the proceedings. Prepare a report for MCOP upon my return.
I will depart Indianapolis for Washington, D.C. on Saturday and am ordered to arrive at Andrews Air Force Base Sunday morning for departure to Guantanamo Bay. Between now and then I will be watching the Military Commissions website and various news outlets for new developments that may affect next week’s hearings. I will also pack for my trip, and have been advised to include business casual attire for court attendance, summer sportswear for recreational time, and warm pajamas and bedclothes for the tents at Guantanamo Bay, which are kept quite frigid to discourage infiltration by insects and rodents. Finally, I will be preparing the applicable fair trial checklists contained in the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, to provide myself a framework for my observations.