Month: April 2017

Going Back to Guantanamo Bay Today

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Andrews Air Force Base at Dawn. I took this photo in front of the Visitors’ Center

Today is my 4th scheduled trip to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since January 2017, the month of the inauguration. The first three of these early 2017 war crimes pre-trial hearings were cancelled, the last one just hours before our military flight was scheduled to depart Andrews Air Force base.

I’m back at Andrews again pre-dawn, with dozens of other people – civilian and military – heading to Guantanamo for US military commission pre-trial hearings in the case against al Tamir (Hadi al Iraqi), an alleged high-level Al

laptop and boarding pass -- april -- Andrews

Laptop, passport & boarding passcaption

Qaeda member who allegedly committed war crimes. These hearings were originally scheduled for two weeks — five days this coming week and five days next week — but next week’s hearings were cancelled.

Boarding Pass -- alone - Andrews -- April 2017

Boarding pass. Note the price.

We were meant to arrive at Andrews at 6:00 AM for a 10:00 AM flight — four hours in advance is standard. While waiting, there is time for me to meet the other 4 non-governmental organization observers (described below), and to see who else is scheduled to fly with us. There has not been much air traffic at Andrews on any of my trips to and from Guantanamo.  On occasion, dignitaries on official planes will pass through the otherwise spartan Andrews Air Terminal.

hadi-al-iraqi

The defendant — al Tamir (a/k/a Hadi al Iraqi)

The defendant – al Tamir

al Tamir 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 U.S. 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.

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

Unlike most of the other detainees charged with international crimes, al Tamir 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.

Our Pre-Trial Hearing Week at Gitmo 

It is unclear what will transpire during this week of pre-trial hearings. I downloaded an official docket of motions originally scheduled to be argued in court this week. However, the amended docket is hidden behind a pentagon security firewall, beyond the reach of the small handful of “observers”, like myself taking today’s 3-hour flight to this remote outpost tribunal. Rumor has it that we will only have 2 days in the courtroom this week, though the hearings are scheduled morning and evening, Monday – Friday. This means that we may have plenty of time to explore non-courtroom endeavors, including research and writing. Time permitting, I will be able to focus on research for my new book, The Guantanamo Bay Reader: Voices of Those Living and Shaping the Gitmo Experience.

Inevitably, many of us on these trips find time to engage in recreational activities.

It’s good to see some familiar faces here in the terminal, weary as we all gear up for a solid week of Guantanamo work.

3 observers - Andrews -- april 2017

The other 3 male Observers. We have one female observer on this trip as well.

It is also great to meet the 4 other observers who will be with me on this trip. Most appear to be lawyers, with two being prosecutors.

With us are the military judge and his staff, prosecutors, defense counsel, interpreters and translators, security personnel, media, escorts for various groups, and us observers. I also noticed some families, with young children, returning to Guantanamo where they are stationed as part of the 3 to 4 thousand permanent U.S. military living at Guantanamo. Another approximately 1,600 are at Guantanamo to handle matters related to the 41 detainees remaining there.

IMG_0035Please stay tuned for more reports from Guantanamo Bay. Among other things, I plan to provide updates on 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 4 other NGO representatives scheduled to observe this week’s proceedings with me. I also plan to discuss my new book, The Guantanamo Bay Reader.

Guantanamo Photo Exhibition at Indiana Law – The Unreported Side of Gitmo

 

Aline Fagundes and Andy Klein - Atrium - April 2017 -- Photo Exhibit

 Dean Andy Klein and Judge Aline Fagundes in front of the Guantanamo Photo Exhibition that was created by Judge Fagundes.

Indiana law students, faculty, staff and graduates have a long history with Guantanamo Bay. Much of their work relates to the U.S. Military Commissions – a military tribunal – created by Congress in 2006 to try detainees for alleged conduct associated with war.

 

The students, from Indiana University McKinney School of Law, are holding a photo Exhibition that highlights aspects of Guantanamo that do not focus on their legal work on important cases like that of alleged masterminds of the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The Exhibition focuses on Guantanamo as a tropical island outpost that “holds a rare natural beauty in the Caribbean Sea”.

Guantanamo is a “place globally associated with stories of terrorism, torture and lengthy detention without charge”, but it has another side to it that is rarely reported, the students note.

The Exhibition comprises photos of nature at the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (also called “Gitmo”).

Brilliant sunrises and sunsets, sand covered beaches with lapping waves, iguanas, and vultures appear in vividly vibrant, large-scale photographs, clear and sharp.

Indiana McKinney’s Guantanamo involvement.

Indiana McKinney law students, faculty, staff and graduates have been associated with Gitmo for most of the 15 years since the first detainees arrived there in January 2002.  Their Gitmo roles have included law student researcher, expert witness, media representative, chief defense counsel, prosecutor, detention camp legal advisor, detention center guard, Defense Department public affairs representative, and fair trial observer.

Today’s Exhibition explores Gitmo through the eyes of McKinney students who traveled to GTMO as fair trial observers.

The Department of Defense grants “NGO observer status” to Non-Governmental Organizations such as McKinney’s Program in International Human Rights Law, for the stated purpose of promoting transparency at the Commissions. The McKinney human rights program then formed the MCOP – Military Commissions Observation Project. The MCOP sends McKinney faculty, staff, students and graduates to Gitmo Bay to attend, observe, analyze, critique, and publish materials on the hearings. They are fair trial observers.

Exhibition details

edwards and fagundes -- ft meade - helicopter -- 11 March 2017

Judge Fagundes and Professor Edwards at Ft. Meade, Maryland

The Exhibition, sponsored by the law school’s Program in International Human Rights Law  (PIHRL) & Master of Laws Association (MLA), is titled “Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Through the Eyes of Indiana University McKinney School of Law Observers”.

edwards and fagundes -- Pentagon -- 21 March 2017

Judge Fagundes & Professor Edwards at the Pentagon.

The Exhibition is in the Law School Atrium, 530 West New York St., Indianapolis, IN  46208. It runs from 20 April to 15 May 2017, from the end of classes, through the exam period, until the graduation ceremonies.

The Exhibition was created and organized by Judge Aline Doral Stefani Fagundes, LL.M. candidate, MLA President. Judge Fagundes traveled to Gitmo twice, and traveled to the Pentagon and to Ft. Meade, Maryland for other Guantanamo Bay – related hearings.

 

The students noted that the Exhibition would not have been possible without the help of the McKinney Graduate Programs, the Office of External Affairs, and the Office of Students Affairs.

Learn more at www.GitmoObserver.com

Some photos from the Exhibition appear below.