The Hadi al Iraqi Guantanamo Bay hearings begin tomorrow (Wednesday, 22 July), two days late due to an issue that apparently arose on Sunday the 19th, our first day in Cuba.
I came to Cuba to observe these war crimes hearings, and though the hearings were postponed, I and the other Observers had a very full two days.
On Monday I went for a 4:00 a.m. run with a fellow Observer. We ran early to avoid the daylight heat and humidity. As required, we carried our base identification card and wore reflective gear.
We then met with the other Observers and our escorts for breakfast at the base dining hall. This gave us a chance to get to know each other and learn about the different non-governmental organizations we represent. At the dining hall we saw members from every branch of the U.S. armed forces. As for the food, well, it was pretty decent.
Who are the Guantanamo Observers this week?
I am representing the Military Commission Observation Project of the Indiana University IU McKinney School of Law (MCOP), founded by Professor George Edwards. Five other NGO’s sent representatives to attend this round of Hadi hearings. NGOs generally are tasked with attending, observing, analyzing, critiqueing and reporting on the military commission proceedings. Our Indiana project, which is also known a the “Gitmo Observer”, is specifically looking at the rights and interests of the full range of Guantanamo Bay military commission stakeholders, including, for example, the defendants, the prosecution, the victims and their families, the witnesses, the media, and the military personnel who guard the prisoners and run the detention facilities.
Our group of Observers consists of two attorneys, four law school students from four different law schools, and one representative from an NGO that focuses on human rights. The diverse backgrounds of this group will help provide different points of view from which to observe the proceedings and, thus, hopefully lead to a fuller review of the hearings.
After breakfast, I met with the other Observers for an informal discussion. We met outside near a particular restaurant so that several of the Observers could use the free wifi available at that particular location.
Internet access is quite an issue at the base. Internet access through a wired ethernet connection costs $150/week. This cost is prohibitive to some NGO’s and to some Observers. The Observers who cannot afford to pay for the wired connection must rely upon free wifi. This service, which is only available at select locations is both slow and unreliable due. This, in turn, runs the risk of limiting timely reporting from Observers.
The NGO Library
I then went to the NGO library to learn what resources were present to aid us in our observations. A number of NGO’s, including the Military Commission Observation Project through Indiana’s IU McKinney School of Law, stocked the library with helpful written material.
The MCOP most notably included two resources (1) a briefing book that includes the Manual for Military Commissions and (2) a copy of the 500 page Executive Summary from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program.
To understand the rights of stakeholders, it is important to understand the legal framework in which stakeholders exercise their rights. As such, the Manual for Military Commissions is a great resource as it sets forth how military commissions, such as the one handling the al-Hadi al-Iraqi case operate, both in and outside of court hearings. This includes, for example, discovery issues, trial rules, and sentencing procedures.
The second document will be helpful as the Hadi defense team has made numerous references to this study through many of its pleadings. This document is important as it is referenced by the defense in many of its pleadings.
Big Day Tomorrow
It is hard to believe that the hearings begin tomorrow. I’m excited about this opportunity to watch the hearings, analyze the proceedings, and then report to you.
I and other Observers have been using the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, that provides insights as to what we might wish to look for as we assess whether stakeholders are receiving a fair hearing.
Greg Loyd – Guantanamo Bay, Cuba