One Day Until Departure for Guantanamo Bay

Selected for Travel

I am a student at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and have been involved with the Military Commission Observation Project for almost a year now through the McKinney Law Program in International Human Rights Law. Through our program, students, faculty, staff, graduates, and other school affiliates have the opportunity to travel to either Ft. Meade in Maryland or Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to attend, observe, analyze, critique, and report on hearings for alleged war criminals.

I was selected to travel to Guantanamo Bay for the 25-27 January 2017 hearings of the five remaining detainees who are defendants in this case. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, along with the other four defendants, is alleged to be involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks on the Pentagon, World Trade Center, and United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.

During the McKinney Law Fall Recess, I traveled to Ft. Meade, Maryland to attend, observe, analyze, critique, and report on one of the hearings for the five remaining defendants in the case, via live stream from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Details about the hearing that I attended in Maryland can be found in my 2 November 2016 blog post. I wanted to attend hearings on the 25-27 January 2017 because the case involves the 11 September 2001 attacks, which makes this a high a high profile case that is the subject of intense scrutiny.

Preparing for Departure

Departing for Guantanamo Bay requires a lot of preparation and staying on top of emails and paperwork for many institutions including the Pentagon, McKinney Law, and the Overseas Study Office, in addition to the logistical requirements for making the trip. The Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual has a “Know Before You Go” section that contains important information for those preparing for a mission to Guantanamo Bay. The manual is a compilation of resources and information to aid NGO representatives before, during, and after their missions to Guantanamo Bay or Ft. Meade. Also, when I arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, I will have excerpts from the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual to distribute to the other NGO observers. This is part of the role for the McKinney Law Program in International Human Rights Law. The excerpts are from the full volumes I and II and the manual contains a plethora of information right down to the layout of the courtroom and who sits where. The manual also discusses the rights of stakeholders in the proceedings, and has charts to help evaluate stakeholders’ rights. It also gives the source of law for each right being evaluated. The manual is a result of collaboration from previous observers and is continually updated as observers travel to hearings.

Eagerly Waiting

ksm - in court

Khalid Shaik Mohammad, in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom. (Sketch by Janet Hamlin)

Despite intensive preparation, I know from previous experience that pre-trial hearings are sometimes delayed or cancelled, however I am hopeful that the pre-trial hearings will occur as scheduled. There are several other NGO observers scheduled to travel to Guantanamo Bay during the dates that I will be there. I look forward to working with these observers and receiving feedback and critique of the Fair Trial Manual.


By Ben Hicks

J.D. Student

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

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