My Travel to Guantanamo Bay to Monitor U.S. Military Commission Hearings

My Background

I am a second-year student at Indiana University McKinney School of Law pursuing a certificate in human rights law.

I became interested in Guantanamo Bay during my undergraduate years. I did a large amount of research on the practice of extraordinary rendition and torture of suspected terrorists. This inevitably led me to researching the Guantanamo Bay detention center. I am interested in the balance between human rights and national security I believe this opportunity will give me a first-hand look at how the United States approaches these issues.

My Mission

I will be traveling to Guantanamo Bay from 27April – through 4 May, 2019 to monitor the U.S. Military Commission hearings of Khalid Shaik Mohammad and 4 other alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks. My job will be to attend, observe, be observed, analyze, critique and report on these hearings. I am representing the Military Commission Observation Project, which is part of the Program in International Human Rights Law of our Indiana McKinney School of Law. Professor George Edwards founded the human rights program and the Guantanamo project.

Charges Against the Defendants

Mr. Mohammad was captured in 2003 and was held in CIA prisons (“black sites”) before he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2007. Charges against him and his four co-defendants include attacking civilians, hijacking an aircraft, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, and murder in violation of the law of war, and terrorism.

Khalid Shaik Mohammad. The right photo was taken by U.S. forces after his capture. The left photo was taken by the International Committee of the Red Cross at Guantanamo Bay. (


In preparing for my mission I have been researching the case I will monitor. I have also read Know Before You Go to Guantanamo which has helped me know what to expect at the base, along with the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual: Excerpts. Both the Manuals are produced by Indiana’s Military Commissions Observation Project and are available for download on I have spoken with previous observers who have been to GTMO so I can better know what to expect. I have also been exploring the website for the Office of Military Commissions to keep up to date on what has been occurring with the hearings.

Previous Guantanamo Hearings

The front gate at Ft. Meade.

A few weeks ago I traveled to Ft. Meade, Maryland to attend a U.S. Military Commission pre-sentencing hearing in the case against Mr. Majid Khan. The hearing was broadcast by CCTV into a secure room at the Ft. Meade military base.

Mr. Khan pleaded guilty to murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of law or war, and spying. He has since been cooperative in giving information to military prosecutors regarding other Guantanamo detainees.

Madison Bowsher

J.D. candidate 2020

Military Commission Observation Project

Program in International Human Rights Law

Indiana University McKinney School of Law  |

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