First Guantanamo hearings in Trump Era possibly derailed


Cheryl Bormann, counsel to 9/11 case defendant Waleed bin Attash, did not travel to Guantanamo Bay reportedly due to a medical emergency. (Photo from Flickr)

The first Trump-Era Guantanamo Bay war crimes hearings are set to commence tomorrow, 25 January 2017, but they may be derailed. A death penalty lawyer for one of the accused is absent from Guantanamo this week due to a medical emergency, and it is unclear whether hearings can or will go forward in her absence. Her client, one of the 5 alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, is entitled to death penalty counsel. Ms. Bormann is the only death penalty lawyer who is representing him.



Walid bin Attash, a 9/11 case defendant who faces the death penalty, is without his death penalty lawyer for this week’s hearings at Guantanamo

The military judge for the case ordered that the hearings go forward on Wednesday morning, 25 January 2017, despite objection by the defense. If hearings commence on Wednesday morning as scheduled, it is unclear whether they will continue for the full 2 scheduled weeks, or whether they will come to a hasty end Wednesday, Thursday or Friday if objections continue.

Hearing participants — travel to / from Guantanamo

The hearings are held at the remote Caribbean island U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, yet the only participants in the hearings who reside at Guantanamo Bay are the detainee defendants. Virtually everyone else involved lives in the mainland U.S., and must be shuttled down.  Typically a day or two before hearings commence, hundreds participant convene at Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, D.C. and board a military plane for Guantanamo. This includes the judge and his staff, the prosecution team, 5 sets of defense lawyers and their staff, interpreters and translators, media, independent observers / monitors, and victims and victims’ family members. If hearings last for two or more weeks, on the weekend in between planes shuttle to / from Guantanamo Bay swapping out media, observers / monitors, and victims and their family members, most of whom attend for one week at a time only.

A question remains as to whether a plane will depart Andrews as scheduled on Saturday, 28 January 2016, carrying observers / monitors, media and victims and their family members for hearings next week, or whether next week’s hearings will be cancelled.

Docketing Order

Earlier this month the court’s docketing order listed topics to be covered this week and next. Here is the docketing order:

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George Edwards

Professor of Law

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Founder, Military Commission Observation Project & GitmoObserver

Founder, Program in International Human Rights Law

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