Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) who travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to monitor U.S. Military Commission hearings now have a military challenge coin!
The coin reflects the NGO mission, which focuses on transparency at Guantanamo war crimes proceedings.
The Pentagon permits a limited number of NGO representatives to travel to Guantanamo to monitor proceedings. NGOs are the eyes and ears to the outside world on what happens at Guantanamo, consistent with the right to a public trial for all categories of Guantanamo stakeholders. Stakeholders include defendants, prosecution, victims and victims’ families (VFMs), guards, witnesses, media, and others – all who have rights and interests.
Other Guantanamo groups have challenge coins, including the defense, prosecution, the Office of Military Commissions, the Commissions Liaison Group, and different Guantanamo camps and other sub-groups of deployed personnel.
All the Guantanamo coins honor aspects of the military and civilian personnel involved with Guantanamo, and their contributions.
A brief history of the challenge coin
A challenge coin is a coin or medallion typically created by an organization to demonstrate membership or participation, to honor service, or for commemorative purposes. Challenge coins are steeped in military and public service tradition, and are often exchanged or distributed during visits, given as an award, exchanged between friends as gifts, or exchanged as collector’s items.
About the NGO Guantanamo coin
The new NGO Guantanamo coin is round, is bronze with white background, and is 3 inches in diameter, much larger than a silver dollar.
On one side, the coin reads “U.S. Military Commissions” (top) and “Guantanamo Bay, Cuba” (bottom). This side contains a U.S. flag in red, white, and blue, Lady Justice in bronze, and a map of Cuba with a red star placed on Guantanamo Bay.
Lady Justice holds the Scales of Justice in one hand and a sword in the other. A blindfold over her eyes represents that justice should be applied impartially.
The opposite side of the coin lists the 6-part mission of Guantanamo NGOs – to attend, monitor, be seen, analyze, critique, and report on the Guantanamo hearings.
Most aspects of the mission statement are obvious – transparency as fundamental to the right to a fair trial obviously requires monitors (or observers) to be present and to observe, and to analyze what they observe, and critique (positive / negative) and report.
The reasoning behind the “be seen” portion of the NGO mission may not be so obvious, but it is very important. The Military Commission Act, the U.S. Constitution, international law, and regulations and rules related to the Guantanamo proceedings all call for a public trial. The defendants sitting in the courtroom should be able to turn around and look into the observation galley and see a slice of the public. The defense lawyers and prosecution should be able to see a slice of the public, and the judges and jury and victims and anyone else should be able to see the NGOs, who represent the public. The presence of the NGOs, and their visibility – their ability to be seen – goes to the issue of not having secret trials (with secret trials being prohibited under U.S. and international law).
The visibility of NGOs might give comfort to some trial participants who might feel heartened that if there are any improprieties, NGOs might bring such improprieties to the attention of the outside world. The visibility of some NGOs might cause other actors to be extra diligent in doing their jobs, fearing that NGOs will report improper behavior.
The background on this side is also white, with a design of the Scales of Justice in the middle. The edge surrounding the coin reads, “At Guantanamo Bay justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done” (top), and “Non-Governmental Organizations” (bottom).
Availability of the Guantanamo Bay NGO Coin
A limited number of Guantanamo Bay NGOI coins were produced, and are available for $15. If you are interested in acquiring a coin, please contact The Gitmo Observer at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Coins can be shipped to you.
End Note: This NGO Challenge Coin was designed by the Military Commission Observation Project of Indiana University McKinney School of Law, directed by Professor George Edwards, with input by and consultations with numerous individuals, including many involved with other Guantanamo NGOs and other Guantanamo stakeholder groups. No coalition or union of Guantanamo NGOs exists, and there was no vote among NGOs as to the design or production of the coin. Thus the coin is not an “official” coin of the NGOs, but one that any NGO or NGO representative might use if they wish, particularly if they believe that the coin reflects their mission.