Travel Day to Guantanamo Bay to Monitor U.S. Military Commissions in the 9/11 Case  (August 19, 2017-August 26, 2017)

This is my second trip to observe the military commission hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as part of the Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP) of the Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL) of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law.  My role is to observe the proceedings and provide an independent, impartial, and accurate account of the proceedings.

I left Indianapolis Friday afternoon August 18 and drove for 9 hours to joint base Andrews, where the charter plane to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was scheduled to depart at 09:00 on Saturday morning August 19. I was told to arrive at the Andrews Visitor Center by 06:00 and meet the escort from the convening authority who would fly with us.  Upon my arrival at the visitors center, one of our escorts vouched for me at the front gate guard station so I could drive onto the base to the terminal.  I followed our escort to the terminal where I met the other 3 Non Governmental Organization representatives (NGO’s) who are traveling to Guantanamo Bay for the KSM / 9/11 hearings with me.  There were representatives from the American Bar Association, the New York City Bar Association, and the Pacific Council on International Policy.

NGOs

NGO’s traveling to Guantanamo Bay 8/19/2017, at the family waiting room at Joint Base Andrews.  From Left to Right, Neysa Alsina, Victor King, Justin Bingham, Chuck Dunlap 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I handed out copies of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual and the Know Before You Go: Guantanamo Bay (which were produced by the MCOP and are routinely distributed to other NGO’s traveling to Guantanamo Bay for the military commission hearings) books at the terminal for them to have as resources during our trip.

What to Expect

“Know Before You Go To Guantanamo Bay” publication produced by MCOP as a guide for those attending Military Commission Hearings

After an uneventful 3 ½ hour flight we arrived at about 1:00 in the afternoon in Guantanamo Bay.  Upon landing we were the last group to exit the plane since we were seated in the very rear of the aircraft.  We entered the main hanger and were processed through initial security procedures which consisted of a review of our travel orders issued by the Pentagon, our passports, and the other documents we had completed in order to travel to Guantanamo Bay.

After clearing through the initial security process in the hanger, we entered the terminal next to the hanger where I briefly got to say hello to Tyler Smith who was traveling back on the same plane we arrived on after observing the Abd al Hadi al Iraqi hearings the prior week.  Since we were the last ones to be processed through security, we had to hurry up and get loaded up onto the vans that were waiting to take us to the waiting ferry.  The ferry is a large military transport boat boat that can hold hundreds of people and also vehicles to cross the bay from the airport to the other side where the military commission hearings are held.

Aline10

The military ferry that we traveled on to cross Guantanamo Bay from the air terminal side to the Military Commissions side.

Dolphin

Photo of a dolphin taken from the ferry as we crossed Guantanamo Bay from the air terminal to the other side where the military commission hearings are held.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After traveling across the bay on the ferry we collected our luggage and got settled into our tents.  After that, we went to get our security badges which took place within the secured area of the courtroom compound at camp justice.  After that we made a trip to the Navy Exchange (NEX) to stock up on supplies for our week’s stay. The NEX is essentially like a Super-Walmart with food, clothing and general merchandise.

Tent

The accommodations that NGO’s receive during our stay at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba 

 

Camp Justice

An exterior photo of the tent compound at Camp Justice that the NGO’s stay in while attending the Military Commission Hearings

Later in the evening the 4 of us (NGO’s) were invited to attend a BBQ hosted by representatives from the Al Baluchi defense team.  In addition to the Al Baluchi defense team, several other members of other detainee defense teams were also present.  During this time we had the opportunity to talk with some of the defense attorneys about what to expect during the week ahead and how they expected the various issues on the docketing order to be addressed.  We learned that the defense teams anticipated a full day of public hearings on Monday followed by a closed session (closed to the public) on Tuesday due to the discussion of classified information, a public hearing day on Wednesday, and most likely closed sessions on Thursday and possibly Friday.  The members of the defense teams stressed that this tentative schedule is subject to change depending on how the hearings proceed day to day, but if the schedule stays as has been predicted by the defense teams, we should have some down time during the day so we may have opportunities to visit some other parts of the base including Camp X-Ray, Marine Hill and radio GITMO.

While we don’t know our full schedule for tomorrow yet, we have been told that at some point we will also have an opportunity to meet with the prosecution team as well and discuss the proceedings from their perspective.

Charles R. Dunlap, J.D.

Member, Military Commission Observation Project

Program in International Human Rights Law

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

 

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s