I am a first year law student at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and I was set to travel to Ft. Meade Maryland this week to observe hearings via lifestream from Guantanamo Bay. The hearings scheduled for this week were for Hadi al Iraqi, who is alleged to, among other charges, have been involved in a series of attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan around 2003 and 2004. The hearing postponement appears to have resulted from a motion for continuance filed by the defense. The defense filed two motions for continuance in January. Although neither the motions for continuance nor the responses to those motions have been made public, I suspect they are related to the hearings being cancelled this week. I feel a little disappointed that this week’s hearings were cancelled, although I must admit I was concerned that bad weather could cause problems with travel from Indianapolis to Ft. Meade.
I review the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trail Manuals in preparation for my observer mission.
A Rare Opportunity
Not many people have the opportunity to view the hearings of an alleged war criminal. Although the hearing for this week was cancelled, I hope that I will be able to attend one of the other hearings in the future. I understand that delays and postponements are inevitable, but hopefully these will not affect my future travel plans.
A few years ago I read a book by Hannah Arendt entitled Eichmann in Jerusalem, in which Arendt describes the challenges associated with reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann who was tried for having a major role in the atrocities of the Holocaust. One of the specific challenges Arendt noted is a problem associated with holding a trial for someone who is generally believed to be guilty from the start. She questioned whether such a trial trial can have legitimacy, or if it is more of a show. As I go into this process, this issue does not concern me. I believe it is important to have a trial, especially in these instances. One concern is that most people likely believe that those held in Guantanamo Bay are guilty, based solely on the fact that they are being held there. Holding a trial is an essential part of ensuring that all stakeholders are treated fairly. My role as an observer is an essential part of this process. I take this role very seriously and will always strive to remain objective when reporting on the procedural process.
I remain optimistic about my observer mission, despite the first hearing I was set to view being cancelled. As I continue the semester I hope I can find time to attend another hearing, and ultimately hope to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to see a hearing in person.
My name is Leontiy Korolev and I am very excited by the possibility of traveling to Guantanamo Bay to observe hearings in the U.S. Military Commission case against Hadi al Iraqi on 26 and 27 January 2016.
I graduated from Indiana University McKinney School of Law a few years ago, and now work as an attorney for the State of Indiana. In Law School, I was president of the International Human Rights Law Society and had the honor of receiving a scholarship to travel to Geneva, Switzerland as an extern for the Program in International Human Rights Law. For a while after Law School I was a research assistant for the Program in International Human Rights Law, and assisted with drafting and researching parts of Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual.
The Office of the Military Commission provides background information on the Guantanamo Bay Trials including any official documents that have been released to the public. The Charge Sheet is an interesting read and lays out the U.S. Government’s charges against Hadi al Iraqi. The specific charges are found on pages 10-12 of the Charge Sheet dated 02/10/2014. The five charges allege that Hadi al Iraqi committed the following crimes: (1) denying quarter, (2) attacking protected property, (3) using treachery or perfidy, (4) attempted use of treachery or perfidy, and (5) conspiracy. It is important to note that there are numerous news sources available online and elsewhere about the allegations and Hadi al Iraqi; the Charge Sheet only provides the Governments allegations.
But learning about Hadi is only part of my preparation. I also have to learn about what my responsibilities are as an “observer” or “monitor”.
The Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual contains a chapter about the Role of the Observer / Monitor. I understand that I am to attend, observer, analyze, critique and report on U.S. Military Commission hearings. I am looking forward to digging into the Manual and learning more about the role of the Observer/Monitor. Professor Edwards provided the following summary of the role of the Observer/Monitor: “We are observers, and have an opportunity to see, hear and learn things that other stakeholders are not privy to. We are the eyes and ears into the Commissions for the outside world. If we do not post information, outsiders will not know. We have undertaken to send people to Ft. Meade & GTMO in great part to provide insights for those who cannot go. So, if we do not post, stakeholders and others of interest do not find out.”
There are a handful of blogs below that provide some background on the Hadi al Iraqi trials, however I do think that think there may be at least a few people interested in reading about how one is able to travel to Guantanamo Bay and the steps that were taken to apply as well as the steps that needed to be taken to “finalize” travel. Finalize is in quotes because I write this, unfortunately knowing that the hearing could be continued at any moment, perhaps even during my drive to Andrews Airforce Base. Of course it could also be continued as I fly on a military jet to Cuba, but I think that alone would be an experience, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The trial could also be continued after I land, which would then leave me with a few days in Cuba, which is not the worst thing in the world either! UPDATE: the hearing was actually cancelled the day before I was set to travel, but I will cover the cancellation in a future post.
I have scoured my inbox to see the exact date of my application and it looks like my first application to participate as an observer in the Military Commission Observation Project of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law’s Program in International Human Rights Law was in March 2015. I remember waiting and hoping for the opportunity but as time went by, I was convinced the opportunity would escape me. It had been months since I thought I may yet have the chance to observe the Guantanamo Bay Trials in person, at Camp Justice.
The process has been a practice in managing expectation and curbing my enthusiasm. I waited to hear back after applying the second time, but did not hold my breath. Shortly after submitting the application I was informed that I had been nominated to travel to Guantanamo Bay for the Hadi hearings. There was a caveat, the nomination did not mean anything unless I was approved to go by the Pentagon. I don’t know about most of the readers, but I have never had to obtain approval from the Pentagon to do anything before. Perhaps Pentagon approval should have been a given, but in my mind it certainly was not.
It seems like time stood still for the next 12 days. The approval email finally arrived and I was given two weeks to submit a handful of additional documents to the Pentagon. This may seem like plenty of time, but the approval came on December 23. Not only were the holidays here but there was a very specific submission process. The documents followed a complicated path. The Pentagon sent them to me, I had to fill them out, scan them and send them to Indiana University McKinney School of Law’s Program in International Human Rights Law (“PIHRL”). Those documents were then reviewed by PIHRL and sent to IU Counsel on the IUPUI campus who reviewed and sent them to lawyers in Bloomington. The lawyers in Bloomington reviewed the documents and sent them to the Indiana University Treasurer. The Treasurer has the authority to execute the documents. Once executed they were sent back to Bloomington Lawyers, the IUPUI lawyers, PIHRL, back to me and finally to the Pentagon. I received the documents back from PIHRL on January 4th, one day before the submission deadline given to me by the Pentagon. A few more email exchanges followed and I was able to submit the documents to the Pentagon before the deadline. I’m sure this all seems more dramatic to me than to the reader (hopefully readers), but given my excitement to attend the hearings, I think it is understandable.
Although the hearings were cancelled the day I was set to begin travel, this has been a learning experience and I hope to receive another opportunity to observe and report in the future.
I am privileged to have the opportunity to monitor the Military Commissions of Abd Hadi al Iraqi (“Hadi”). The Pentagon has granted Military Commission Observer status to the Program in International Human Rights Law (“PIHRL”) of my law school Indiana University McKinney School of Law. Professor George Edwards developed the Military Commission Observer Program (“MCOP”).
The MCOP sends observers to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor the hearings in person and to Fort Meade, Maryland to observe hearings on closed circuit TV. Our job, as MCOP observers, is to seek to determine whether the rights all stakeholders (prosecution, defense, victims, etc.) have been afforded to them. Essentially, we are to review the applicable international law and determine whether a fair trial has been afforded to all stakeholders. I will submit a future post(s) regarding the rights we are tasked with safeguarding.
As such, it is an honor for me to travel to Fort Meade to observe the Military Commission. My intent in this post is to provide some background on the Hadi al-Iraqi case and some personal reflections.
I spent 15 years in the Army as a military policeman. I deployed to Afghanistan while serving the Maryland National Guard with then 290th MP Company. Additionally, a sister company in our battalion served 6 months at Guantanamo Bay (“Gitmo”) guarding some of the first prisoners located there in 2003 – 2004.
Once I was informed that I was selected as an observer, I did some background research. I began by checking previous entries on the Gitmo Observer Blog. I noticed that a previous entry regarding female guards mentioned that Col. David E. Heath was the commanding officer of the detention center.
Col. (then Captain) Heath presenting me an award in June 1995.
I served under Col. Heath (then Captain Heath) from 1994-1995 as a military policeman on Johnston Island (referred to as “Johnston Atoll” by civilians) a small, desolate outpost in the south Pacific. Johnston Island (“JI”) is located approximately 825 miles southwest of Hawaii. JI served as a storage and disposal point for chemical weapons. If I recall correctly, was Col. Heath’s first assignment as a commanding officer.
I then reviewed the charges and case materials and timeline for al Iraqi. It is alleged Hadi served as an Al Queda (“AQ”) liaison to the Taliban and later as an AQ commander.
Hadi is alleged to have sworn allegiance to Osama Bin Laden around 1999. From 2002-03, he directed, funded, supplied, and supervised AQ operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Some key moments on the timeline stood out to me [Interspersed in bold / italics are some of my own personal reflections of my experiences in Afghanistan at the time some of the events occurred]:
Timeline of Allegations Against Hadi al Iraqi
June 7, 2003 – Hadi allegedly provided a suicide bomber to detonate a vehicle-borne explosive device (“VBIED”) hidden in a civilian vehicle near a bus carrying German military members. The blast, which occurred near Kabul, Afghanistan, killed numerous German soldiers and Afghan civilians.
My unit (290th MP Company) arrived at Camp Phoenix, Kabul, Afghanistan in late June 2003, shortly after this incident. The German unit that was bombed were on their way back to Germany. Their duty in Afghanistan was complete. Their bus was taking them from the ISAF base in Kabul to the airport when the VBIED went off next to one of the buses. This incident was briefed to us and provided a prime example of the importance of operations security (“OPSEC”). We were aware how important is was to stay alert and not share too much information.
September 29, 2003 – Hadi allegedly organized and planned an attack on a US installation in Shkin, Afghanistan, killing one US soldier and firing RPGs and small arms at a marked medevac helicopter. Additionally, the attack was videotaped. The video showed the US soldier dying, and was used as a propaganda film.
October 2, 2003 – Hadi is alleged to have funded an improvised explosive device (“IED”) attack in which his co-conspirators planted an IED which detonated as a Canadian military convoy passed. The blast killed 2 Canadian soldiers and injured another in Kabul.
I was in Kabul when this occurred. The Canadians killed were a SGT and CPL. Camp Phoenix observed a moment of silence for their passing. It also served as evidence that IEDs were being used in Afghanistan. During this period of time, IEDs were mainly being used in Iraq. That would change in the coming months and years. The use of IEDs in Afghanistan would accelerate rapidly.
October 25, 2003 – Hadi’s alleged co-conspirators attacked a convoy using RPGs and small arms, killing 2 US persons in Shkin, Afghanistan. They believed the convoy to be carrying “important persons” or “diplomats.”
November 16, 2003 – Hadi allegedly provided a reward of $200 – $300 US dollars to the Taliban for assassinating a civilian UN worker near Ghazni Afghanistan.
January 27, 2004 – Hadi allegedly provided a suicide bomber and funding for simultaneous attacks on coalition forces in Kabul. The suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest directed at a Canadian convoy. One Canadian soldier was killed, three injured.
It is my recollection (but it may have been another incident that occurred during this time frame) that this bomber used a motorcycle or motorbike to drive alongside the convoy, in traffic, and detonate alongside the passenger side of the vehicle. This information was provided to US forces, so that future convoys and patrols would be on the lookout for motorcycles and items placed on our vehicles.
Late 2003/2004 – Hadi allegedly provided $25,000 US dollars to a co-conspirator in a plot to murder Pakistani President Musharraf.
June 2006 – Hadi is alleged to have begun to travel to Iraq and acted as an AQ liaison.
October 2006 – Hadi attempted to travel to Iraq undetected, and presented false passports and documents to Turkish officials.
Late 2006-Early 2007– The details of his capture and transfer are unclear. Hadi was ultimately detained. At some point he was transferred to US custody and held by the CIA. In April 2007, the US confirmed that al Iraqi, along with 14 other “high value detainees” had been transferred to Gitmo.
I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this project. I am looking forward to observing the hearing and providing feedback.
J.D. Graduate, Indiana University McKinney School of Law
NPR’s David Welna updates NPR listeners on Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a forever prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, and author of Guantanamo Diary. Written in long-hand, the book describes his nearly 14-year ordeal as a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. The US Government redacted much of the work and has prohibited the author from seeing a published print copy of his book.
The story details the torture Mr. Slahi was subjected to at Guantanamo Bay and discusses the legal limbo he now resides in as a forever prisoner.