I was nominated by the Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP) of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law and confirmed by the Pentagon to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor military commission hearings in the case against Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, who has requested to be called Nashwan al Tamir, from 30 September – 7 October 2017. Hadi is an alleged senior member of al-Qaeda responsible for war crimes.
My earlier monitoring at Ft. Meade and Guantanamo
This will be my third time to observe in the war crimes pre-trial hearings. I traveled toFt. Meade, Maryland in October 2016 to observe the hearing in the case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 4 other alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, and to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in January 2017 to observe hearings in the case against Hadi, the same defendant in the upcoming hearings.
Possible hearing delay
As of last Thursday, 14 September, Carol Rosenberg reported in the Miami Herald that Hadi has been referred for neck surgery after a period of time of known health issues. It was reported that he had lower back surgery earlier this month. There is no official word yet from the Pentagon as to the status of the hearings slated to begin 2 October and run through 6 October. The Miami Herald reported that Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Ben said the hearings were still on (as of Friday, 15 October) and that any request for delay would only be considered in the event that the defense file the appropriate motion.
Current filings/where the case stands
As of today, Monday 18 September, the defense filed a motion regarding Hadi’s current medical status to request an emergency motion to abate the proceedings until he is physically competent to stand trial, per the filing listing available on the Military Commissions website. The most recent motion regarding the emergency abatement was filed today and is still being processed under security review and not available to read by the public. Once it has gone through the security review, the document will become available here.
The National Oceanic and Atomspheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that a category 5 hurricane is heading towards the Caribbean. Hurricane Maria is a 160mph storm that recently made landfall on Dominica and is now headed towards Puerto Rico, which is officially on national alert after President Trump issued an emergency declaration for federal assistance for the territory. If it continues on its current trajectory, it may narrowly miss Cuba as it veers north towards the Atlantic.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to travel to Guantanamo again to observe the Hadi hearings, but am aware that the hearings may be canceled and rescheduled to allow for a lengthy recovery period of the defendant. I will continue to prepare for the hearings as if they were to go forward so that I am fully prepared in case I am able to travel next week to Guantanamo.
Sheila Willard, J.D. Candidate
Military Commission Observation Project
Program in International Human Rights Law
Indiana University McKinney School of Law