Using the Fair Trial Manual at GTMO – Hadi al Iraqi Hearings – January 25-31

I thought I would comment on how I used the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual throughout my week at GTMO.  Our group was very lucky in that we had more open sessions than other groups have seen in the past.  The Manual came in particularly handy when we met with counsel, when I spoke with people outside of the courtroom, educating observers in the gallery, and also while observing the hearings.

Sit-down with Colonel Jasper

Colonel Jasper is integral to the defense of the detainees.  He is a Marine Judge Advocate and gladly spent an hour speaking to our small group.  I wasn’t quite sure what questions to ask him, so I consulted the sections of the manual dealing with “Right to effective Assistance of Counsel”, “Right to Communicate with Counsel of His Own Choosing”, and “Right to Attorney Client Privilege”.  These sections helped me to ascertain what questions to ask someone in his position.  I can definitely see that he is an effective counsel.  He believes very strongly in the rights of his client (Hadi al Iraqi) and was incredibly passionate in his conversation with us.

Several of my questions for him came from the manual, which one could not readily ascertain just from observation of the proceedings alone.  According to Colonel Jasper, the Government is running all of the proceedings and his client is not getting a fair shake.  The prosecution has more resources, he only has four days each month with his client to communicate (and this is when he travels into GTMO), the judge is biased, etc.  He does not have the opportunity to really consult with his client in confidence, claiming the government observes, but he does not know to what extent.

I did ask him what his level of security clearance is, to confirm that it is the same as that of the prosecution.  To me, it still does not make sense that defense counsel cannot see the same documents as the prosecution.  In my legal practice, we often encounter documents subject to confidentiality orders that only our counsel can see.  They can then advise us on strategy, but not on the contents of the documents.  I would think that the defense counsel would at least be afforded this, but apparently everything is on a “need-to-know” basis for everyone involved.

Use in the Gallery

I let several observers flip through the manual who were not with our NGO party during the hearings.  Unfortunately, the size of it was a bit daunting to some and they looked at the first few pages before just handing it back to me.  It was more effective for me to summarize the purpose of the Manual and that I was using it as a guide for my observations.  I took lots of notes in it and it was also integral in keeping me awake and paying attention.  Sometimes the content of the hearings can get a little dry and it gets a bit difficult to not let the mind wander.  It’s also helpful to go back through now that I’m home and I can flip back through it for my notes.

Conversations with my Fellow NGOs

Discussing issues prior to the first hearing of the trip on the first day.

Discussing issues prior to the first hearing of the trip on the first day in the NGO Lounge.

The manual also served as a good conversation topic with my fellow NGOs.  It was a fabulous ice-breaker at Andrews when I handed it out and then we could discuss the contents of it throughout the trip. One example of the topics that came up was that the majority of the questions seemed more biased in favor of the detainees and the defense when we are supposed to be impartial observers.

Suggestions were made to pare down the size of the manual, focus more on the questions of law that continually come up among the current proceedings, and provide a shorter version of the manual that refers to the longer version for more detail.

(Margaret Baumgartner)

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