On Friday, August 28, 2015, the Pentagon confirmed a slot for me to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor hearings in the U.S. Military Commission case against Hadi al Iraqi. The hearings are scheduled for September 21-25.
I was previously scheduled to attend hearings in March 2015. But those hearings were cancelled a few days prior to departure.
Pre-trial Hearings for Abd al Hadi al Iraqi
Abd al Hadi al Iraqi is an alleged high-ranking member of al Qaeda who has been held in Gitmo since 2007. Ten days of hearings were scheduled to take place in July 2015 to cover a variety of issues.
The night before those hearings were to begin, the defense raised the issue of a possible conflict of interest involving a member defense team. As a result, the hearings were pushed back two days. When the hearings finally began, they lasted just three hours. The court recessed to resolve another conflict with the defense. The court ruled that the hearings would be continued until September.
Information about the July hearing can be found here.
The Military Commission Observation Project (“MCOP”) was founded by Professor George Edwards of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law after the Pentagon granted Military Commission Observer status to the Program in International Human Rights Law that Professor Edwards also founded. MCOP participants can include Indiana University McKinney School of Law “Affiliates”, which includes students, faculty, staff and graduates of the law school. Some IU McKinney Affiliates who have participated are listed on this website. Persons interested in registering for possible travel to Guantanamo Bay or Ft. Meade can find more information and the registration form here.
The MCOP sends monitors to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor hearings live, and to Ft. Meade, Maryland to monitor Guantanamo trials through secure videolink direct from the Guantanamo Bay courtroom. MCOP monitors attend, observer, analyze, critique and report on Guantanamo Bay proceedings. We are seeking to assess whether the rights of the different stakeholders are being met, and to report on whether or not they are being met or not. Obviously the detainees’ rights are front and center. However, defendants are not the only stakeholders we are concerned with. Other stakeholders include the prosecution, victims and their families, witnesses, observers / monitors, and the press.
I am not certain why I was chosen to travel to Guantanamo Bay through my Indiana law school’s MCOP, but it could have been in part because of my military background. Having served eleven years in the Indiana Army National Guard, I can perhaps offer some insight as to the rights and interests of the military members who are responsible for GTMO’s detainee operations.
Indiana National Guard at Guantanamo
Members of the Indiana Army National Guard’s 38th Infantry Division (nicknamed the “Cyclone Division”) have previously supported the mission performed by Joint Task Force Guantanamo (“JTF-GTMO”). Members of the historic “Cyclone” division are currently scheduled for a rotation in Guantanamo Bay in the coming months.
I do not know the details as to when exactly they are leaving, how long they will be there, how many are going, or what their exact mission will be. That information is generally not publicized in order to protect the Soldiers and their loved ones.
It is vital for military members to maintain Operational Security (“OPSEC”) at all times; a concept sometimes difficult for some military members to grasp in the age of social media.
I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this project. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences and contributing to the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual section pertaining to the rights and interests of JTF-GTMO personnel.
By: Tyler Smith, 3L, Indiana University McKinney School of Law