As I was scrolling through my e-mail messages one cold afternoon in January 2022, I noticed an email announcing the opportunity to travel to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba to observe the 9/11 pre-trial hearings through a program at the law school where I am enrolled – Indiana University McKinney School of Law.
I submitted an application through the law school’s Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP), which is part of the school’s Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL). Not long after that, I was interviewed by the program director, and soon after I received a message from the program telling me that I had been selected to travel to monitor Guantánamo Bay pre-trial hearings in the case against a prisoner named Hadi // Tamir who has been charged with multiple war crimes in connection with his alleged role as commander of Taliban and Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.
And then, I received an e-mail from the Pentagon, attaching a number of documents that I was required to fill out – I discuss those below.
The Pentagon message confirmed that I would be scheduled to fly from Joint Base Andrews (outside of Washington, D.C.) to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, at the end of March 2022.
While Cuba might have beautiful beaches and warmer weather than Indianapolis where my law school is, my mission to Guantánamo is not about the weather.
The Guantánamo Bay prison opened in January of 2002 in the aftermath of September 11th. Since then, 780 men and boys were taken to Guantánamo, foreign soil leased from Cuba over a century ago, because they were suspected of war crimes and for other various reasons. Today, thirty-eight prisoners remain. I am scheduled to attend the hearings of one of these prisoners: Mr. Hadi // Tamir.
The man claims his birth name is Nashwan al Tamir, but the US government has charged him under the name Hadi al Iraqi. Mr. Hadi // Tamir was held in secret CIA custody in 2006 after he was captured in Turkey and kept in a secret location for 5 – 6 months. In April of 2007, Mr. Hadi // Tamir was transferred to Guantánamo Bay.
I am a third-year law student at IU McKinney pursuing my Juris Doctorate degree with concentration certificates in both International Law and Corporate Law.
After I pass the bar exam, I plan to work at the Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP law firm as an associate in the Indianapolis office. As of now, it appears that I will likely join the Employment Law practice group. I hope that traveling to Guantánamo will offer me insights into human rights issues that might aid me as I practice law at Faegre.
Before law school, I studied Mathematics and Education at Haverford College and Bryn Mawr College through the school partnership (known as the “bi-co”) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
After Bryn-Mawr, I taught for two years at Allen Academy, a small school in Bryan, Texas. During my experience teaching math in both urban Philadelphia and rural Texas, I developed a profound recognition of the individual human experience. Engaging with students that came from wildly different backgrounds and home environments inspired me to understand and acknowledge others’ perspectives and challenges. I began reading and studying theories of consciousness to better connect with my students, which led me towards my interest in international issues and human rights work.
After teaching for a few years, I decided to pursue my Juris Doctorate at Indiana University, McKinney School of Law.
During the 2020 summer, I took a course on International Law with Professor George Edwards. In International Law, we discussed topics ranging from humanitarian issues to constitutional questions of due process in extraterritorial regions and alleged torture when due process is ignored.
I learned about the Military Commission Observation Program through my connection with Professor Edwards and other students that traveled in the program before me. I am extremely honored to have been chosen as an observer and objective, civilian reporter of Mr. Hadi // Tamir’s pre-trial hearings at Guantánamo Bay. I am grateful to be at Indiana University McKinney School of Law where Professor George Edwards has crafted this tremendous learning opportunity for students and alumni through his honorable endeavors in human rights education.
My mission is to attend, observe, be seen, analyze, critique, and publish materials on the al-Nashiri hearings through an objective, fact-based perspective as an MCOP NGO observer.
I hope to provide a non-biased analysis of my observations and report my fact-based impressions to the rest of you on this blog.
Filling out many forms!
I have submitted all my forms and requisite materials to travel to Guantánamo. This mission required great preparation, from extensive reading of manuals to long checklists.
I have been required to submit documents to three entities:
- Indiana University
- the Pentagon.
For the Program in International Human Rights Law, I was required to submit the following two documents: (1) the Military Commission Observation Project acknowledgment and agreement form; and (2) the Military Commission Observation Project Agreement checklist. As I complete more items on the checklist, I am required to submit updated checklists to comply with the Program’s requirements.
For Indiana University, I was required to submit the following fifteen documents: (1) Cuba Travel Advisory Waiver, (2) Agreement and Release Form, (3) Proof of Covid-19 Vaccination, (4) Confirmation of Participation in the study abroad program, (5) Copy of my passport, (6) Travel planning and itinerary (travel itinerary was the last form I completed since travel arrangements came last in the process), (7) Visa information, (8) Emergency Contacts, (9) Emergency Plan, (9) Medical Information, (10) Traveler’s Health Form, (11) Insurance through the Study Abroad Office, (12) Trip Insurance, (13) Contact information while abroad, (14) Travel registration, and (15) Pre-departure requirements completion form
To officiate and confirm my travel with the government, I also submitted to the Pentagon the following six forms:
- a Hold Harmless Agreement,
- an acknowledgment of the NGO Ground Rules for Observation of Military Commissions,
- an Invitational Traveler Worksheet to organize my journey from Joint Base Andrews to Guantánamo,
- a Naval Station Guantánamo Bay temporary access card form,
- an acknowledgment of the NGO Representative procedures for observation of military commissions; and
- an NGO Observer bio, for a total of six forms.
I am also required to read the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual and the Know Before You Go To Guantanamo informational document. The extensive Manual describes the various stakeholders in the Guantánamo Bay Trials and provides further details on the legal issues involved. The Manual also provides an in-depth discussion on the importance of taking an objective position as an NGO observer. The Know Before You Go document provides over 100 pages of helpful information and anecdotes about traveling to Guantánamo Bay. Both are essential to read and understand before embarking on the mission.
The lengthy logistic process for witnessing the pre-trial hearings feels necessary when compared with the tremendous opportunity presented. Preparation is the key to understanding.
Excited for my journey. . .
My next blog will be published before I board the plane at Joint Base Andrews (formerly Andrews Air Force Base) bound for Guantánamo on 26 March 2022.
J.D. Candidate (2022)
NGO Observer, Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)
Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL)
Indiana University McKinney School of Law