I am a student at Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. I have been nominated to travel to Guantanamo Bay to monitor pre-trial hearings during the week of 8-15 January, 2022 through the Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP). I have been preparing to travel to Guantanamo Bay in order to observe the pre-trial hearings of the five 9/11 alleged co-conspirators. I have been reading about the five alleged co-conspirators and the history of Guantanamo on the Guantanamo Docket, published by the New York Times, reviewing motions and official documents of the hearings on the Office of Military Commissions Website, and obtaining the proper clearance and travel documents from the Pentagon that will allow be to travel as an NGO (non-governmental organization) observer.
On 04 January, 2022, as I was driving home from Tucson, Arizona, where I had spent the Christmas holiday with my family, I was notified that the pre-trial hearings for the five 9/11 alleged conspirators that had been scheduled for 08-22 January, 2022, had been cancelled, that all NGO travel to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay had been cancelled, and that updates on future hearings will be provided as updates become available.
The January pre-trial hearings were cancelled after a defense motion to cancel the January 2022 hearings, filed on 03 January, 2022, was granted (link to motion) in part by Matthew N. McCall Colonel, USAF, the presiding military judge. According to the motion, the cancellation was due to the increased risks of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
The five men being charged for their alleged roles in the 9/11 attacks are Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek Bin ‘Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Ramzi Bin al Shibh, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi. All five men have been detained since 2006. Despite being detained at Guantanamo Bay for the last 16 years, the trial has not started yet. The last pre-trial hearings in this case were in September 2021. Before that, the last hearings had been in February 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic reportedly being largely responsible for the 19-month gap between hearing dates.
The week I was scheduled to attend pre-trial hearings is of particular significance, as 11 January 2022 marks the 20-year anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners at Guantanamo.
The five men whose pre-trial hearings I was scheduled to attend have each been held at Guantanamo since 2006. Even though these five men have been held for 16 years, their trial has still not yet began.
At this time, the pre-trial hearings for the five 9/11 defendants have not been rescheduled yet.
I was disappointed when I received the email stating that the hearings that I had been preparing to observe had been cancelled. I had spent a considerable amount of time reading about Guantanamo Bay and learning about the elements of a fair trial, and how those elements apply to the Guantanamo cases, and the sources of law for a fair trial (see the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual for more information). I hope that the pre-trial hearings can be rescheduled soon.
J.D. Candidate, 2022
NGO Observer, Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)
Indiana University McKinney School of Law