Traveling to Guantanamo Bay for Hadi War Crimes Hearings

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Hadi al-Iraqi

I’m scheduled to fly to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on Monday, 16 May 2016, as a non-governmental organization (NGO) observer of proceedings in the U.S. Military Commission case against detainee Hadi al Iraqi.

Hadi is a high-value detainee who is an alleged high-ranking member of al Qaeda who served as liaison between al Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban. He is charged under the Military Commissions Act with a series of war crimes, including attacking protected property, perfidy / treachery, denying quarter, and targeting noncombatants such as medical workers and civilians. Among other things, he is alleged to have helped the Taliban blow up the monument-sized Bamiyan Valley Buddha Statues, which were a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Hadi was officially charged in the equivalent of an arraignment in a Guantanamo Bay courtroom in June 2014. I happened to be present in the Guantanamo courtroom for that proceeding.

Unlike most of the other detainees currently facing trial, Hadi is facing a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, rather than a death sentence faced by, for example, the five men charged with masterminding the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Delays

For the last 2 years, since formal charging, Hadi’s pre-trial hearings that have been plagued with disruptions related to, for example, conflict of interest issues, and his “releasing” his counsel.

Recently, Hadi’s defense counsel made a motion to continue (postpone) the 17 – 18 May hearings. The Military Commission website (mc.mil) indicates that the Military Judge has ruled on this motion to continue, but the contents of the ruling have not yet been posted because the ruling must be cleared before posting for public view. Apparently the Judge denied the motion, as all systems appear to be go for the proceedings this week.

Two Days of Hearings Scheduled for This Week

My flight to Guantanamo is set to leave from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside of Washington, DC. I’m due at Andrews at 6:00 a.m. on Monday the 16th, along with defense counsel, the prosecution, the judge and the court staff, the media, other NGOs, and others associated with the case against Hadi. We are all set to fly on the same plane.

We travel down on Monday, get situated, with court scheduled to begin Tuesday morning and run through Wednesday. Then, everyone who flew down to Guantanamo on Monday gets back on a plane to fly back to Andrews.

Unfortunately, details of the nature of the 2 days of hearings are not readily available to observers such as myself, since many of the motion papers are not released yet. At times it takes many days for unclassified motion papers to be made available for public view on the Military Commission website.

Papers that were recently filed that may perhaps be covered on Tuesday and Wednesday include a Trial Counsel Detailing Memorandum (filed 13 May 2016), a Supplemental Defense Notice to Commission IAW Order (filed 27 April 2016), and the Defense Notice of Excusal of Detailed Defense Counsel (filed 20 April 2016). All of these papers are listed on the website, but the contents of these papers have not been made available for public view.

Brigadier General Mark Martins, who is the U.S. Military Commission’s Chief Prosecutor, is typically great about briefing NGOs upon arrival at Guantanamo Bay. papers. That will be very helpful, particularly for Observers who are not familiar with intricacies of each Guantanamo Bay case.

More to come

Please stay tuned for more reports from Guantanamo Bay. Among other things, I plan to talk about the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, produced by the Guantanamo Bay Military Commission Observation Project of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, and share information about the 6 other NGO representatives scheduled to observe this week’s proceedings with me. I will also talk about my new book, The Guantanamo Bay Reader.

George Edwards (Washington, DC)

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