As part of a group of non-governmental organization (NGO) observers from across the United States, I spent the past five days, November 16-20, at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO). My mission as an NGO observer was to attend, observe, analyze, critique, and report on the week’s pretrial proceedings in the government’s case against Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi. Hadi is accused of several crimes arising out of his alleged role as an al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan during the post-9/11 period. I returned home late last night (Thursday, Nov. 20) to Indianapolis via Andrews Air Force Base.
I cannot say enough about the wonderful reception the NGOs received from everyone we came into contact with at GTMO. All of them — including General Mark Martins and his staff, Hadi al-Iraqi’s defense team, our NGO escorts Mark Gordon and Darryl Roberson, the numerous members of the JTF Public Affairs Office, and many more — were exceptionally gracious and accommodating of our questions and requests to see and learn as much as possible about GTMO and the Commissions during our trip.
For Future Observers . . .
To anyone with the opportunity to observe GTMO proceedings, I say, “do it!” But try to be as informed and prepared as possible before you go. This is hard to do when you are working or attending law school full-time, but it makes your experience of the hearings and your exchanges with the other NGOs so much more rewarding. Everyone in our group brought his or her own set of knowledge with them and it made for very informative and productive discussions. And the GITMO Observer’s Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual is available free in electronic format at gitmoobserver.com. Many of my fellow NGOs had reviewed the Manual in advance of our trip, and they invariably commented that it was a very helpful tool for providing a framework from which to consider their observations. Hard copies of the Manual are also available on site at GTMO in the NGO “internet café” lounge. They are located to the right of the microwave and are free for the taking.