Arrived at Andrews Air Force Base Ready to Begin Monitoring Assignment in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

My name is Claire Black and I am a law student traveling to participate in the  Military Commission Observation Project in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As I am preparing to board the flight to Guantanamo Bay, I will describe my pre-departure preparation and what I expect as we board the plane to Cuba for the week. Monitors are required to arrive in Washington DC the day before a scheduled flight to Cuba because we are to report to Andrews very early in the morning on the day of the flight.

Last Minute Preparation

Since I was required to arrive by Sunday, my husband and I decided to drive in Friday night and spend a couple of days here so I could be prepared and not tired from a day of travel when I got to Andrews for my week of duties as a monitor. It was chilly in DC, but still warm enough to walk around comfortably, so we walked to several special Washington DC landmarks over the weekend including the National Portrait Gallery, the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Archives, and the Washington and Lincoln Monuments.

National Museum of African American History and Culture
with Washington Monument in Background

I arrived at Andrews to meet our NGO escort, Jennifer, and the other NGO monitors at 6:30am. Our flight leaves Andrews at 11am. There are eight of us attending this week’s hearings as human rights monitors. I collected the other NGO representative’s emails and sent them PDF versions of the Know Before You Go Guantanamo and Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manuals. We then checked in for the flight.

The process and check-in counter were similar to checking in to a commercial flight, except that they asked me for the travel papers that the pentagon prepared and sent to us and they asked me to estimate our weight inclusive of my carry-on bags. We boarded the plane, a commercial B-767 chartered for the flight, and headed to the back three rows, which are reserved for NGOs. The plane had seven seats across, and the flight was not very full, so we all spread out for the 3.5 hour flight. When we arrived, we took a 15-minute ferry boat ride across the bay to Camp Justice, where our quarters are.

Our NGO Monitor Group Attending Hearings This Week
Made Up of Participants from Around the Country
We are standing in front of the ferry boat that brought us across the Bay

The rest of day one was spent getting our required IDs for entry into the legal complex and being briefed on rules and procedures. Particularly important were the rules about what we can and cannot photograph on the base. No photographs may be taken of the area where we attend court.

Schedule for the Week

This week, there are motions hearing scheduled in the case of U.S. v. Majid Shoukat Khan set for Tuesday, November 19 to Thursday, November 21, 2019.  Though we are prepared that schedule changes can occur any time, including after we arrive at Guantanamo Bay. Already, we were informed this evening, that there is a closed session of court in the morning that we are not invited to. We are to arrive for court tomorrow at 1pm.

We are scheduled to return to Washington DC on Friday, November 22. I will write this week about what I observe and experience both inside and outside of the courtroom.

Our home for the week, tents in “Camp Justice”
Sunset Day One

Claire Black

J.D. candidate 2020

Military Commission Observation Project

Program in International Human Rights Law

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

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