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.
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