Month: July 2019

My Flight to Guantanamo Bay Leaves Today

I drove from Indianapolis, Indiana to Andrews Air Force Base (Joint Base Andrews) to catch a military flight to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor U.S. Military Commission hearings in the case against 5 alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

I am well aware of my responsibilities, but I am also excited to witness history, in a process that I learned about as a Master of Laws (LL.M.) student at Indiana Univesity McKinney School of Law, and that I know people in my home country of Brazil, where I have been a state court judge since 2005.

I am representing the Indiana McKinney Program in International Human Rights Law, that under the direction of founding director George Edwards, sends students, faculty, staff, graduates to Guantanamo. My mission is to attend, observe, be seen, analyze, critique and report on proceedings.

In this blog post, I will talk briefly about my trip from Indianapolis to DC, and share a little about my experiences at Andrews this morning.


The week before my departure to Guantanamo Bay

Today, Sunday, 21 July 2019, is the day my flight is scheduled to depart for Guantanamo. I’ll tell you about that shortly. But first, I’ll tell you about the week leading up to today.

The last week has been very busy.

First, before I left Indiana, I received a bunch of e-mails related to my mission. Some of those emails came from the Pentagon’s Office of Military Commissions and contained final instructions related to the mission, and documents containing helpful information about the trip. The Pentagon also sent various documents that I needed to print copies of to carry on the trip.

I also received e-mails from one of the 5 defense teams in this case, containing a motion hearing summary for the week.

Furthermore, I received multiple messages from Professor Edwards related to the mission, including reminders to forward all Pentagon messages to him upon receipt, to complete and turn in a checklist designed to help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks in the final days, and to have in place plans to communicate from Guantanamo.

Professor Edwards is the principal author of two Guantanamo documents that Indiana observers carry to Guantanamo and distribute to observers from other programs.

Those two documents are  the  Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual and the Know Before You Go to Guantanamo Bay[ge1] .

I was instructed to stop by the Law School before my trip to pick up these documents to carry to the other observers. I was scheduled to leave Indiana on 13 July 2019, several days before the 21 July 2019, since I was going to drive from Indiana to DC and spend time in DC with before my Guantanamo plane left.

I stopped by the Law School and picked up 8 copies of each of the two Manuals, since there would be a total of 8 observers on this trip. I began to drive to Washington with my family.

After I left Indiana, I received an e-mail message from Ms. LaTasha Tripplett, who is the Faculty Assistant who works with Professor Edwards on our Military Commission Observation Project.

Ms. Tripplett informed me that the printer had misprinted the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Excerpts Manual. She told me that the printer was reprinting them, and that she would send 8 copies to me before the plane left. I gave her the address of my hotel in Washington, DC, and she was able to send them. They arrived on time, and I got them as soon as I checked into the hotel? It is mandatory that we check our e-mails regularly. That is a good rule, and in place for good reason!

Thanks for that, Ms. Tripplett!

As mentioned, I decided to drive to D.C with my family, so we all could enjoy some time in the capital of the United States before I depart for Guantanamo Bay, and so they can enjoy the city while I am in Guantanamo.

We arrived in D.C Friday night, 19 July 2019, so we had plenty of time to visit some points of interest, such as the Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial.

The view from Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument as a highlight

Our visit was taxing, since the weather was scorching. There is an Excessive Heat Warning for Washington D.C, with the temperatures around 100 ºFahrenheit (almost 38 ºC), feeling like 110 ºF (around 44 º C). We did not spend too much time outside in the heat. We had to come back to the controlled temperature in the hotel.

The day of the trip
This morning I had to get to the Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, at 6 am to begin my observation mission in Guantanamo Bay. It was a 25 minutes Uber drive from the Grand Hyatt Washington, which cost me US$ 23. To avoid delays, I left the hotel around 5am, then I got to the Joint Base at 5:25am.

When I got there, I went to the Andrews Visitor Center.

Flags over Joint Base Andrews (Andrews Air Force Base) at sunrise.
Andrews Visitor Center is where the NGO meet with the escort

I texted Cathy Nardo, the escort for all the other observers, and I found five more observers. We joined the other two observers at the terminal. Each of the 8 of us is from a different “NGO” – non-governmental organization. Our Indiana program founded by Professor Edwards is considered an NGO.

Ms. Nardo picked us up at the Visitor Center right after 6:00am, and we drove onto the main part of the Andrews Base, just a few hundred yards / meters from the Visitor Center. We then drove about 10 minutes us to reach the Andrews Air terminal. This is the Air Base where Air Force I is, the plane flown on by the President of the United States.

At the terminal we immediately checked in for our flight and gathered in children’s nursery located in the terminal, where the observers could get to know each other and wait for further instructions. While there, I met Terry Rockefeller, of the Peaceful Tomorrows, whose members are family of the victims of the 9/11 attacks. She has been to Guantanamo Bay 8 times before and will have a lot to teach me during this week. Cathy took some observers for coffee and, after that the observers were briefed by the escort later about the last-minute information regarding our travel. I distributed the Indiana manuals there and the fellow observers immediately started reading them, finding them very helpful for the mission to come.  

Conclusion

I have mixed emotions while I wait to get on the plane.  They range from the thrill to be an eyewitness of a historic event to the most basic feeling that I haven’t completed all the steps I should take to start the mission.

The Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial: Exerpts and Know Before You Go to Guantanamo Bay

My flight is scheduled to depart Andrews at 10:20am, which means that I will have enough time to write my first impressions of my mission. The plane today is a charter plane of the company Miami Air.  We are scheduled to arrive at at Guantanamo Bay at 1:30pm.

Soon I will share some information from Guantanamo Bay.

PS: Sorry for the delay. Due it the busy schedule, I could only post one day later.


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Cleared to Travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Monitor Hearings in the Case Against the Alleged 9/11 Attack Masterminds

I am a Master of Laws (LL.M.) student at Indiana University McKinney School of Law in the International Human Rights Law track, and I have been selected to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to monitor U.S. Military Commission hearings against five alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.  I am part of the Law School’s Military Commission Observation Project (or the Gitmo Observer), founded by Professor George Edwards.

My background

I became a judge in Brazil in 2005, working in civil and criminal courts. In this capacity, I deal with the most diverse areas of law, including human rights and prisoners’ rights. Those subjects prompted me to come to the United States to join the International Human Rights LLM Program in IU McKinney, where I am studying these areas.

How I became interested in the Guantanamo Project

At the McKinney Law School, I came across the Guantanamo Bay Project of the Program in International Human Rights Law (PIRHL) following the advice of Judge Aline Fagundes,  a law student at IU McKinney and a Brazilian judge who went to Guantanamo Bay through this project in 2016 and 2017. Judge Fagundes attended the cases against the alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the 2000 suicide bombing of the U.S.S. Cole off the coast of Yemen. Furthermore, she traveled to Ft. Meade, Maryland to monitor hearings that were broadcast live from Guantanamo into a secure room at the Maryland base. And, she traveled to the Pentagon where she observed a different type of Guantanamo proceeding – a Periodic Review Board (PRB), which are not criminal proceedings, but administrative proceedings in which Guantanamo detainees ask the U.S. government to release them.

Judge Fagundes published about her experiences in several media, such as in the GITMO Observer website, and in a Brazilian newspaper, Zero Hora (you can read the article in Portuguese here). Judge Fagundes recently gave a lecture in the School of Labor Judges in Porto Alegre, Brazil, about her Guantanamo Bay experiences.

Judge Fagundes in front of the plane to took her to Guantanamo on her first visit there

Judge Fagundes, in a recent lecture about her experience, in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The 9/11 hearings – my travel

I was cleared by the Pentagon to travel to Guantanamo to monitor hearings that are scheduled for 21-27 July 2019, in which Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek Bin ‘Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Ramzi Bin al Shibh, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi are charged as being masterminds / facilitators of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Photos obtained in Google Images (access here)

Ramzi Bin al Shibh was captured in 2002, while the other four defendants in 2003. All of them were held in secret CIA prisons (“black sites”) before they were transferred to Guantanamo, between 2006 and 2007. Khalid Shaikh Mohammad and his co-defendants are charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, and terrorism.

My responsibilities as a Monitor / Observer

As a Monitor / Observer traveling to Guantanamo Bay, I have great responsibilities.

First, as an observer, my role is to attend, observe, be seen, analyze, critique, and report my observations, “helping to ensure transparency, the rule of law, and /helping to ensure that the promises of international human rights law protections are fulfilled.”* (you can read at Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual). I pledge to be independent and objective in my observation / monitoring, and to endeavor to have and keep an open mind, with limited preconceived ideas about what I will experience at Guantanamo Bay.

Second, as a Brazilian judge, I feel obligated to share information I learn with the legal community in Brazil and Latin America, who may benefit from learning about the  Military Commissions.

Finally, as a member of Indiana McKinney Military Commission Observation Project, I have a great responsibility with all other fellow observers, current and to come, helping them to get the most out of their missions, sharing relevant information about my experiences with them, so that the goals of our Project might be realized.

Notwithstanding the responsibilities, it is important to notice that Professor George Edwards, as the director of the PIHRL, excels in his role of leader of the project. He takes care to provide the observers with all the information they need to succeed in their mission. That is why I am feeling comfortable and confident in my role as an observer.

How I am preparing for my mission to Guantanamo

While I wait for the travel to Guantanamo Bay, I have been using information from several sources to prepare for my task.

The Gitmo Observer website compiles the observers’ experiences and gives access to the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, which is an excellent source of information for future missions.

I also have been reading all the blogs and the manuals, articles related to Guantanamo in the Foreign Affairs Magazine, The New York Times, and websites, particularly the Office of Military Commissions, where I can find information about the hearings and documents related to the cases.   I have paid attention to the Twitter Feed of journalist Carol Rosenberg, of the New York Times, and paid attention to articles she published when she worked for the Miami Herald.

Conclusion

I am looking forward to playing my role as an observer and to sharing my thoughts with the U.S. and international communities about the work of the Military Commissions in Guantanamo Bay.  

Daniel Pereira, International Human Rights LL.M. Candidate,

Military Commission Observation Project

Program in International Human Rights Law

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

* Edwards, George E., Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual: An Independent & Objective Guide for Assessing Human Rights Protections and Interests of the Prosecution, the Defense, Victims & Victims’ Families, Witnesses, the Press, the Court, JTF-GTMO Detention Personnel, Other Detainees, NGO Observers and Other Military Commission Stakeholders” (by The Gitmo Observer – Principal Author George E. Edwards) © 2019., at. 10 (you can access the Manual here).