Departing Indianapolis for Guantanamo Hearings – Hattie Harman

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The things I CAN’T forget to take to GTMO!

Tomorrow (Sunday) I will fly from Andrews Air Force Base to Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba to observer next week’s pretrial hearings in the U.S. prosecution of alleged al Qaeda commander Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi (17 – 20 November 2014). I will be transporting several updated draft copies of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual to distribute to other non-governmental observers (NGOs).

Visit to International Criminal Law Class

Last evening, I had the good fortune to be a guest in Professor George Edwards’ class in International Criminal Law at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law. Professor Edwards, with help from students and others, has drafted the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual for use NGO observers and anyone else interested in determining whether stakeholders are getting a fair trial. I cannot thank Professor Edwards and his students enough for preparing the Manual and for welcoming me to their class. The Manual has been an indispensible part of my preparation, as it contains a trove of information about the treaties, U.S. laws, and regulations governing proceedings under the law of war,  and international human rights law, and it also identifies the various stakeholder groups in these proceedings, all of whom have rights under these laws, treaties, and regulations.

Making Connections – Theory to Practice

I am an attorney by profession, and my work involves primarily appellate review of both criminal and civil substantive law issues. Issues of procedure and particular rights arise from time to time but are by far most of my work involves more substantive questions such as, “Was a particular piece of evidence properly admitted?” and “Did the trial court properly apply the existing case law in instructing the jury?”. The rights issues I deal with are typically secondary to the substantive law questions.   Further, to the extent I deal with rights issues in practice, these issues relate almost invariably to the rights of the criminal defendant. Therefore, participation in this MCOP project requires me to shift my legal mindset and approach the proceedings from a very different perspective.

I have no previous experience in international law so of course the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual is extremely informative. But I found my visit to last night’s class was absolutely essential in helping me to make connections between the Manual’s exposition of human rights law procedures and the application of these rights to the stakeholders in practice. The students and Professor Edwards were able to help me focus on my role to assess whether the proceedings are delivering the rights to which each stakeholder is entitled, not what substantive law is at issue in the particular case.

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