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.
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.
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).