I was recently confirmed by the Pentagon to serve as a non-governmental organization (NGO) Observer for the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Program in International Human Rights Law (PIRHL) Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP). As of now, I will be traveling to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba 23 March 2019 through 30 March 2019 to observe motions hearings related to Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek Bin ‘Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Ramzi Bin al Shibh, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi, perhaps more commonly known as the “9/11 Hearings.” In short, these defendants are charged with masterminding the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
I am a second-year student at McKinney and am looking forward to the opportunity to take part in such significant legal proceedings. As an observer, my role is to attend, observe, be observed, analyze, critique, and report my observations. To be best prepared to serve in this role, I have been reading blog posts from previous Observers, as well as other materials available, including the Know Before You Before You Go To Guantanamo Bay Guide and the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual. Additionally, I have spent time speaking with those who have traveled to Guantanamo Bay previously, either through this program or in other capacities. I have also received some information from the Pentagon, and the IUPUI Study Abroad Office provided helpful links to resources on the internet. Overall, there is a great amount of knowledge and information available, which enables Observers, like me, to be well prepared to head to Guantanamo Bay.
My motivation for applying to the program comes from a variety of sources. I have always had the intention of pursuing a legal career in the military as a member of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, so the having the opportunity to observe legal proceedings in a military environment was intriguing to me. I was also recently selected to serve as an Army JAG intern this summer, assigned to Fort Carson, CO. Being able to bring my experiences as an Observer to my internship will be invaluable.
From a different perspective, I was motivated to apply after taking the Counterterrorism Law course offered at McKinney. We discussed the Guantanamo Bay proceedings at length, and at the end I felt I had more questions than answers. I am looking forward to having the opportunity to observe the hearings in actual practice, rather than only reading about them in a textbook. Having the opportunity to then share my observations with others and assist with the documentation of the proceedings, through the work the MCOP does and through the Gitmo Observer, ensures the proceedings at Guantanamo Bay are, in some way, accessible to the public.
As I get closer to my travel dates, I know I will have to be flexible as schedules and calendars can change often. The best way to stay up to date is to check the calendar available on the Office of Military Commissions website. I will also continue researching resources to get a better understanding of the background of the hearings I have been selected to observe. Overall, I feel quite lucky to have this opportunity and am looking forward to representing the program and McKinney in the best way I can.
Natalie Gaynier, J.D. 2020
Military Commission Observation Project
Program in International Human Rights Law
Indiana University McKinney School of Law
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