I flew from Indianapolis to Washington National Airport yesterday afternoon, in preparation for this morning’s departure to GTMO. Through the gracious hospitality of old friends, I had a lovely place to stay for the night and was driven to the Andrews Air Force Base Visitor’s Center at 5:30 A.M. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Gitmo Observer (of Indiana University McKinney School of Law) tend to have very meager budgets, thus most – if not all – of our representatives’ travel expenses are borne by the individual observer. I must thank Spike Bradford, Jill Keesbury, and their son Angus for picking me up at National Airport, putting me up for the night, and driving me to Andrews at the crack of dawn. They are true friends indeed.
In addition, my hosts provided very stimulating pre-trip conversation. Spike works for the D.C. area-based Pretrial Justice Institute, a nonprofit organization promoting safe, fair, and effective pretrial practices nationwide.
As the proceedings I will be observing this week at GTMO – those of Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi – are in the early pretrial stages, Spike offered me some perspective for comparison to U.S. domestic criminal courts. To me, the most stark comparison was between the different lengths of pretrial detention. In typical domestic United States criminal jurisdictions, the accused must be charged with a crime within 48-72 hours of arrest or detention, and then has the right (which he or she may choose to waive) to be brought to trial within a particular time limit. See, e.g., Ind. Rule Crim. Procedure 4(B) (affording accused the right to move for a trial within 70 days). In addition, the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of the accused “to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation” and importantly provides that “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” U.S. Const. amd. VI (emphasis added). The accused al Qaeda commander Hadi al Iraqi, whose proceedings I will observe next week, was first brought to GTMO in 2007 after being held by the CIA. Hadi was first charged with a crime in 2013.
Andrews Air Force Base
When I arrvied this morning at Andrews Air Force Base, I met several other NGO observers who will be attending this week’s hearings. One, a representative of the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, was already familiar with the work of The Gitmo Observer. I distributed copies of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual to the NGOs and it was well received. Many other passengers continue to arrive at the Andrews terminal and are checking in for today’s flight, which is scheduled to depart for GTMO at 10:00 a.m.