I am scheduled to monitor Guantanamo Bay military commission proceedings in the case against five alleged masterminds of the 9/11 airplane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The lead 9/11 case defendant is Khalid Shaik Mohammad (KSM).
First, I will travel to Ft. Meade, Maryland, where Guantanamo Bay courtroom proceedings are simultaneously transmitted by secure video link. Then, I will travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where I will be in the courtroom itself, with the judges, defense, prosecutors, media, victims and their families, and the 5 defendants. These hearings, scheduled for 9 – 21 February 2014, will address pre-trial legal issues. The trials may not begin until 2016 or later.
Monitoring Guantanamo Bay trials
The Pentagon has said it wants military commissions to be open and transparent. They want Guantanamo Bay trials to be fair, and they want independent outsiders to monitor the proceedings and assess this fairness. This is consistent with the U.S. statutory requirement that these proceedings shall be publicly held, and that they operate in accordance with international and domestic law mandates for open and fair trials.
The Pentagon selected a handful of non-governmental organizations to send monitors to Guantanamo Bay. In 2014, the Pentagon granted NGO Observer status to the human rights program I had founded at Indiana University McKinney School of Law. I then founded our Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP), which has morphed into The Gitmo Observer.
Gitmo Observer missions include to attend, observer, analyze, critique and report on Guantanamo Bay proceedings. Numerous IU McKinney observers have traveled to Ft. Meade and Guantanamo Bay to monitor proceedings, and have published on their observations. Also we are publishing the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, which examines rights and interests of all stakeholders of the proceedings. The Guantanamo defendants have rights and interests. But other stakeholders also have rights and interests. These stakeholders include the prosecution, victims and their families, witnesses, and the press. The Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual identifies the binding international and domestic law that provides for these rights and interests, and guides stakeholders as to which rights and interests they are entitled, and discusses enforcement and remedies.
Issues February 9/11 hearing
All the issues docketed for the February 9/11 hearings deal with stakeholder rights, principally pre-trial and trial rights of the defendants. They also include U.S. government rights related to national security, rights of female Guantanamo Bay guards to freedom from employment discrimination based on sex, and rights of the international community regarding U.S. compliance with international law.
Listed below are some of the rights issues scheduled for debate this 2-week session, as listed here in the Amended Docket of 26 January 2015:
- Right to trial without undue delay (“inordinate” delays of the proceedings)
- Rights related to mental competency of a defendant to stand trial
- The right to counsel (right to not have the FBI interfere with a defendant’s defense team)
- Conflict of interest rights
- U.S. national security rights and interests
- Access to information (discovery, classified information rights, use of information from undisclosed sources)
- Rights of female guards to perform same duties as male guards regarding, for example, shackling and escorting defendants (employment discrimination)
- Right to free exercise of religion (male Muslim defendants being touched by female guards)
- Right to counsel (defendants not meeting with lawyers because of female guards touching them)
- Right to trial by an independent tribunal (with no unlawful interference or influence)
- Right to non-interference with professional judgment of the defense lawyers (right to counsel)
- Rights related to torture and access to information (Senate report on torture)
- Right to conditions of pre-trial confinement (including privacy rights, intrusive searches)
- Right to access to the outside world (defendants’ telephonic access to families)
- Right to facilities to prepare a defense (including access to computers)
- Right to access to witnesses
- A defendant’s right to access representatives of his government
- Rights under the Geneva Conventions
- Rights under the U.S. Constitution
The 26 January 2015 docketing order can be found here.
IU McKinney Affiliates traveling to Guantanamo Bay in February 2015
Catherine Lemmer, who is a lawyer and international librarian at the faculty of Indiana University McKinney School of Law and who has played instrumental roles in the development of the Gitmo Observer, is scheduled to travel to Guantanamo Bay for 9 -13 February hearings. She was at Guantanamo Bay in December 2014 for hearings in that same case. Professor Lemmer has played instrumental roles as library liaison to the Gitmo Observer, and as a developer of the Gitmo Observer website, briefing materials, and project policies. She has also undertaken to help develop the NGO Observer Library, which will be a functioning resource center for NGO Observers to use while they are on missions to Guantanamo Bay to monitor hearings.
Tom Wilson, who is a lawyer and law professor at the IU McKinney School of Law, is scheduled to travel to Guantanamo Bay during the week of 23 – 27 February 2015 to monitor the case against al Nashiri, who is alleged to have masterminded the 2000 suicide attack against the USS Cole, a U.S. Naval ship that was docked off the coast of Yemen, and that killed and wounded numerous U.S. sailors.
Professor Wilson, in preparing for his first mission, will be posting his preliminary observations on the Gitmo Observer blog very soon!
Are you interested in travel to Ft. Meade or Guantanamo Bay?
IU McKinney School of Law students, faculty, staff and graduates are eligible to be considered for travel to Ft. Meade and Guantanamo Bay through the Gitmo Observer. Registration forms are available on our website.
IU McKinney Law School Dean Andy Klein is expected to travel to Ft. Meade, Maryland to monitor military commission trials during the Spring 2015.
*Khalid Shaik Mohammad’s waterboarding is widely reported, including in the Miami Herald, which cites Justice Department and CIA reports
(Gitmo Observer Post by George Edwards)