Author: gedwards97

George Edwards is Professor of Law & Faculty Director, Program in International Human Rights Law at Indiana University McKinney School of Law. He is Founding Director of the Law School's Military Commission Observation Project ("MCOP" or "The Gitmo Observer"). Professor Edwards is also Special Assistant to the Dean for Intergovernmental and Non-Governmental Organizations.

Public Denied Guantanamo Bay Hearing Broadcast at Ft. Meade, Maryland

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Observers from Indiana at Ft. Meade monitoring a Guantanamo Bay Military Commission hearing. Observers were permitted to see / hear the video / audio feed from the Guantanamo courtroom. (file photo)

Public observers at Ft. Meade, Maryland were banned today from watching satellite broadcasts of a hearing being conducted in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom, even though public observers physically at Guantanamo were permitted to view the same hearing.

Pentagon pledge of open and transparent hearings

For many years U.S. Military Commissions have been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to try individuals charged with war crimes. The Pentagon has stated that these criminal proceedings should be open and transparent, and that to facilitate transparency the Pentagon permits a small number of Observers to travel to Guantanamo to monitor hearings. Observers typically represent human rights or advocacy groups, or academic programs. Observers serve as eyes and ears for the general public, who do not have the opportunity to travel to Guantanamo Bay to witness hearings.

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The Guantanamo Bay Military Commission Courtroom, viewed from the spectator gallery. (file photo)

Observers sit in an enclosed spectator gallery in the rear of the Guantanamo courtroom, separated from the lawyers, prosecutors and defendants by a double-paned glass. Observers can see what is going on in the courtroom, and hear what is said.

The Pentagon also permits Observers to view Guantanamo proceedings by close-circuit television (CCTV) in a secure facility at Ft. Meade, Maryland. Observers at Ft. Meade can see what the cameras are pointing at in the Guantanamo courtroom, and hear what he Observers at Guantanamo hear.

Today, in what appears to be the first time, Observers were permitted to be present in the Guantanamo courtroom spectator gallery and monitor proceedings live, but Observers were not permitted to view those same proceedings by CCTV at Ft. Meade.

Thus, NGOs in the U.S. were effectively banned from monitoring today’s proceeding.

Why the ban?

It is unclear why Observers in the U.S. were banned from monitoring the hearings by CCTV at Ft. Meade today, while Observers could view the hearings live at Guantanamo.

Lawyers for the prosecution and defense apparently argued yesterday and over the weekend about the Ft. Meade ban. But, at least some of those arguments were held behind closed doors, with no Observer being permitted to hear.  Though motion papers were filed related to the ban, those documents are subject to a security review and are not releasable to the public until after 14 days, and may not be released even then.

There are 5 Observers at Guantanamo this week, and they were able to hear some arguments about the Ft. Meade ban. Indeed, they were in the courtroom able to witness today’s hearings – the same hearings from which the Fort Meade Observers were banned.

Again, it is unclear what the convincing argument is that Observers can watch today’s proceedings live in the Guantanamo courtroom, but other Observers cannot watch today’s proceedings by CCTV at Ft. Meade.

My Ft. Meade experiences today

I arrived at Ft. Meade well before the scheduled start time of today’s hearing. The staff member who oversees the Ft. Meade viewing room was there, the lights were on in the room, and the miniature lockers were in place in the rear of the viewing room so Observers could store their cell phones which can’t be used during the CCTV broadcasts.

The minutes ticked away, and soon I learned that an official message had been received that the hearings would not be broadcast to Ft. Meade today, and that was by order.

Nevertheless, I waited to see if  the hearing would open, with an announcement of closure made, before the transmission stopped.

Also, was there still a chance that the hearing would be transmitted in full? Just as an order is made, an order can be reversed.

In today’s case, the initial order regarding this week’s hearings was that Observers could monitor at Guantanamo Bay and at Ft. Meade. A subsequent order reversed the portion of the former order that permitted transmission to Ft. Meade. That reversal prohibited the transmission to Ft. Meade. That reversal could very well have been, and could still be, reversed, and transmission could have occurred today. It appears that it would only take a flip of a switch to begin transmitting from Guantanamo to Ft. Meade, and that such transmissions could be started at any point.

I continued to wait. The large video screen in front of the viewing room stayed dark and blank.

The person at Ft. Meade who oversees the technical side of the transmission sits in a different room of the same building where the viewing room is. I checked with that person, and was informed that there was no sign that the transmission would commence.

I left about 90 minutes into the hearing, with the screen still dark and blank, witnessing none of today’s testimony.

Options?

Yesterday I discussed in a blog post what my options were for being able to observe today’s hearings, particularly since I (and other Observers) chose not to travel to Guantanamo Bay this week in part because we were initially permitted to observe at Ft. Meade. We were informed 4 days ago (Friday) that NGOs would be banned from viewing the hearings at Ft. Meade. By then it was too late to catch the Sunday flight to Guantanamo Bay to view the hearings in person, sitting in the spectator gallery, along with the 5 Observers who are there. There are 14 seats reserved for Observers in the Guantanamo courtroom, so they had room for 9 more Observers this week.

Had I known last week what I know today, I definitely would have requested travel to Guantanamo Bay for this week’s hearings.

I am scheduled to deliver in Australia early next week, and I could have delivered (and still could deliver) that lecture by video rather than in person, freeing me to be at Guantanamo Bay for this entire week. Indeed, if I could go to Guantanamo tonight or tomorrow for the remainder of this week’s hearings that are not being transmitted to Ft. Meade, I would do so and deliver the Australia lecture by video.

Perhaps the Military Commission will permit Observers who were banned from viewing this week’s proceeding at Ft. Meade to view the videotape? The videotape cannot be classified, because if it were, then the 5 Observers at Guantanamo this week would not have been permitted to be in the courtroom for the hearing.

If the reason for the Ft. Meade ban was security associated with transmitting it stateside – maybe the possibility of interception / hacking – then I and other interested Observers could watch the videotape in a secure room at the Pentagon, or in a secure facility when we are next at Guantanamo Bay – and even possibly watch the video in the courtroom itself.

Also, if any victims and family members of victims (VFMs) are interested in watching the video, maybe they will be permitted to do so as well. Several FVMs were present in the Guantanamo courtroom for today’s hearings, but VFMs were denied the opportunity to observe today’s hearing at Ft. Meade, just as Observers were denied the opportunity to observe. Indeed, any member of the general public, aside from Observers, were similarly denied the opportunity to observe at Ft. Meade, though members of the general public are entitled to observe at Ft. Meade, as are Observers, VFMs, and media.

George Edwards

 

Prohibited from observing Guantanamo Bay hearing at stateside CCTV viewing facility

ft-meadeI was scheduled to travel to Ft. Meade, Maryland, the week of Monday, 14 August 2017 to monitor pre-trial hearings in the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Military Commission case against an alleged high-level al Qaeda member. The hearings were to be broadcast via-closed circuit television (CCTV) from Cuba to the Ft. Meade army base, where I have monitored hearings in all the active Guantanamo Bay cases. The U.S. government has stated that Guantanamo Bay (a/k/a Gitmo) proceedings should be open and transparent, and that CCTV broadcasts to Ft. Meade promote openness and transparency.

Now, unexpectedly, it is unclear whether the CCTV will operate this week, and whether I and others will be able to observe this week’s proceedings at Ft. Meade.

Camp JusticeI was informed that the military judge in charge of the case has reversed an earlier ruling, and has now prohibited this week’s proceedings from being broadcast to Ft. Meade. His new ruling apparently permits 5 monitors who traveled to Guantanamo this weekend to observe / monitor the hearings while sitting in the spectator section of the Guantanamo courtroom. However, monitors such as myself who planned to observe from Ft. Meade are effectively banned from observing this week’s proceedings.

In addition, presumably members of other stakeholder groups – such as victims and their families (VFMs), media, and the public at large — are likewise banned from observing this week’s proceedings at Ft. Meade. And, again, the only observers permitted to monitor are those who happened to be on the plane to Guantanamo Bay this weekend.

What are this week’s hearings about?

The defendant in this week’s case is Mr. Hadi al Iraqi (Mr. Nashwan al Tamir), who is an alleged high-level member of al Qaeda who allegedly perpetrated war crimes. This week’s hearings are out of the ordinary in that they would not consist primarily of prosecution and defense lawyers arguing about a range of issues that are typically resolved pre-trial. Instead, this week would consist of testimony by a different Guantanamo detainee, Mr. al Darbi, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government as a witness against Hadi. Ordinarily, a government witness would testify at the actual trial, and not during the pre-trial hearing stage. However, al Darbi is set to be repatriated to his home country soon, and is not expected to be available to testify live during the trial. This week’s testimony is in part a stated attempt to “preserve” al Darbi’s testimony (in the form of a deposition), which could be introduced against Hadi at trial.

My interests in this week’s hearings

I am a professor of international law, and founded the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Military Commission Observation Project / Gitmo Observer at Indiana University McKinney School of Law. (www.GitmoObserver.com) The Pentagon granted our Project status that permits us, as a non-governmental organization (NGO), to send observers / monitors to Guantanamo Bay and Ft. Meade to observe / monitor hearings.

Our Indiana Project is a independent and objective. We are not aligned with any side or party associated with the military commissions.

Among other things, we have developed the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual,* which independently and objectively examines rights and interests of all categories of Gitmo stakeholders, not just the rights of the defendants. The Manual explores rights and interests, under international and U.S. law, of the following stakeholder groups: defendants (as mentioned), the prosecution, victims and their families, media, witnesses, the Court and its employees, the Guantanamo Bay guard force, other detainees, NGO observers, and others.

Many of our Indiana observers have traveled to Ft. Meade and Guantanamo Bay to monitor hearings. We publish, among other things, blog posts on http://www.GitmoObserver.com.

 The judge’s earlier ruling – Yes, NGOs can view at Ft. Meade this week.

The judge in the Hadi case initially ruled that the taking of al Darbi’s testimony, in the form of a deposition, would be open to the public. For purposes of this blog post, that meant at least two things:

  • NGO representatives would be permitted to fly to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to be present in the courtroom’s spectator gallery so they can observe / monitor the deposition live; and
  • NGO representatives, and other members of the public, would be permitted to travel to Ft. Meade, Maryland where they could observe / monitor the deposition via close circuit television.

NGOs being permitted to observe at both Gitmo and Ft. Meade has been standard for hearings for years.

The Judge’s most recent ruling – NGOs are prohibited from observing at Ft. Meade this week

This past week, word circulated that the judge had issued an order prohibiting NGOs (and presumably prohibiting other stakeholders) from viewing the al Darbi deposition via CCTV at Ft. Meade. Apparently NGOs who traveled to Guantanamo this weekend could still observe the deposition live in the courtroom.

I have not actually seen the judge’s ruling, as his rulings, like all filed pre-trial hearing motion papers, are not ordinarily released to the public until the papers undergo a security check, a process that takes at least 14 days. However, word of the ban reached me and others.

Options for me to observe / monitor the hearings this coming week?

I had the opportunity to apply for an NGO observer slot to travel to Guantanamo Bay to monitor the hearings live this week from a seat in the courtroom’s spectator gallery. But, I decided not to apply in part because I believed I would be able to observe this week’s hearings at Ft. Meade.

Had I known that the judge would reverse his ruling and ban NGOs from observing the hearings at Ft. Meade this week, would I have applied for an observer slot to travel to Gitmo for the deposition? Most probably yes.

Though I had a law lecture scheduled in Australia for the week following the Hadi hearings, I would have sought harder to figure out a way to get to Gitmo for the deposition and still arrive in Australia for my lecture. I had figured out that I could do both – fly to Gitmo and fly to Australia, and that would have been my preferred course. But, again, I decided that I could observe at Ft. Meade this time and avoid scheduling issues.

When I learned that the judge prohibited CCTV feed at Guantanamo this week, I thought about how I could get to Gitmo this weekend. It turned out to be an unsurmountable challenge, because, for example, timing was short for the paperwork that needed to be completed before Gitmo travel.

My plans for the al Darbi hearing / deposition

At the moment, I plan to travel to Ft. Meade on Monday morning, 14 August 2017. Though I have been informed that the feed has been cut to Ft. Meade for Monday, the possibility exists that the judge will change his mind and re-open the hearings at Ft. Meade, making it possible for me, other NGO representatives, and other stakeholders to observe / monitor there – again, if the judge orders the CCTV to go forward for Ft. Meade and if any of us is able physically to be present at Ft. Meade this week.

George Edwards

 

* The full title of the Manual is “Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual for U.S. Military Commissions: 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

 

 

Going Back to Guantanamo Bay Today

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Andrews Air Force Base at Dawn. I took this photo in front of the Visitors’ Center

Today is my 4th scheduled trip to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since January 2017, the month of the inauguration. The first three of these early 2017 war crimes pre-trial hearings were cancelled, the last one just hours before our military flight was scheduled to depart Andrews Air Force base.

I’m back at Andrews again pre-dawn, with dozens of other people – civilian and military – heading to Guantanamo for US military commission pre-trial hearings in the case against al Tamir (Hadi al Iraqi), an alleged high-level Al

laptop and boarding pass -- april -- Andrews

Laptop, passport & boarding passcaption

Qaeda member who allegedly committed war crimes. These hearings were originally scheduled for two weeks — five days this coming week and five days next week — but next week’s hearings were cancelled.

Boarding Pass -- alone - Andrews -- April 2017

Boarding pass. Note the price.

We were meant to arrive at Andrews at 6:00 AM for a 10:00 AM flight — four hours in advance is standard. While waiting, there is time for me to meet the other 4 non-governmental organization observers (described below), and to see who else is scheduled to fly with us. There has not been much air traffic at Andrews on any of my trips to and from Guantanamo.  On occasion, dignitaries on official planes will pass through the otherwise spartan Andrews Air Terminal.

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The defendant — al Tamir (a/k/a Hadi al Iraqi)

The defendant – al Tamir

al Tamir is a high-value detainee who is an alleged high-ranking member of al Qaeda who served as liaison between al Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban. He is charged under the U.S. Military Commissions Act with a series of war crimes, including attacking protected property, perfidy / treachery, denying quarter, and targeting noncombatants such as medical workers and civilians. Among other things, he is alleged to have helped the Taliban blow up the monument-sized Bamiyan Valley Buddha Statues, which were a UNESCO World Heritage site.

al Tamir was officially charged in the equivalent of an arraignment in a Guantanamo Bay courtroom in June 2014. I happened to be present at Guantanamo and in the courtroom for that proceeding.

Unlike most of the other detainees charged with international crimes, al Tamir is facing a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, rather than a death sentence faced by, for example, the five men charged with masterminding the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Our Pre-Trial Hearing Week at Gitmo 

It is unclear what will transpire during this week of pre-trial hearings. I downloaded an official docket of motions originally scheduled to be argued in court this week. However, the amended docket is hidden behind a pentagon security firewall, beyond the reach of the small handful of “observers”, like myself taking today’s 3-hour flight to this remote outpost tribunal. Rumor has it that we will only have 2 days in the courtroom this week, though the hearings are scheduled morning and evening, Monday – Friday. This means that we may have plenty of time to explore non-courtroom endeavors, including research and writing. Time permitting, I will be able to focus on research for my new book, The Guantanamo Bay Reader: Voices of Those Living and Shaping the Gitmo Experience.

Inevitably, many of us on these trips find time to engage in recreational activities.

It’s good to see some familiar faces here in the terminal, weary as we all gear up for a solid week of Guantanamo work.

3 observers - Andrews -- april 2017

The other 3 male Observers. We have one female observer on this trip as well.

It is also great to meet the 4 other observers who will be with me on this trip. Most appear to be lawyers, with two being prosecutors.

With us are the military judge and his staff, prosecutors, defense counsel, interpreters and translators, security personnel, media, escorts for various groups, and us observers. I also noticed some families, with young children, returning to Guantanamo where they are stationed as part of the 3 to 4 thousand permanent U.S. military living at Guantanamo. Another approximately 1,600 are at Guantanamo to handle matters related to the 41 detainees remaining there.

IMG_0035Please stay tuned for more reports from Guantanamo Bay. Among other things, I plan to provide updates on the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, produced by the Guantanamo Bay Military Commission Observation Project of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, and share information about the 4 other NGO representatives scheduled to observe this week’s proceedings with me. I also plan to discuss my new book, The Guantanamo Bay Reader.

Guantanamo Photo Exhibition at Indiana Law – The Unreported Side of Gitmo

 

Aline Fagundes and Andy Klein - Atrium - April 2017 -- Photo Exhibit

 Dean Andy Klein and Judge Aline Fagundes in front of the Guantanamo Photo Exhibition that was created by Judge Fagundes.

Indiana law students, faculty, staff and graduates have a long history with Guantanamo Bay. Much of their work relates to the U.S. Military Commissions – a military tribunal – created by Congress in 2006 to try detainees for alleged conduct associated with war.

 

The students, from Indiana University McKinney School of Law, are holding a photo Exhibition that highlights aspects of Guantanamo that do not focus on their legal work on important cases like that of alleged masterminds of the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The Exhibition focuses on Guantanamo as a tropical island outpost that “holds a rare natural beauty in the Caribbean Sea”.

Guantanamo is a “place globally associated with stories of terrorism, torture and lengthy detention without charge”, but it has another side to it that is rarely reported, the students note.

The Exhibition comprises photos of nature at the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (also called “Gitmo”).

Brilliant sunrises and sunsets, sand covered beaches with lapping waves, iguanas, and vultures appear in vividly vibrant, large-scale photographs, clear and sharp.

Indiana McKinney’s Guantanamo involvement.

Indiana McKinney law students, faculty, staff and graduates have been associated with Gitmo for most of the 15 years since the first detainees arrived there in January 2002.  Their Gitmo roles have included law student researcher, expert witness, media representative, chief defense counsel, prosecutor, detention camp legal advisor, detention center guard, Defense Department public affairs representative, and fair trial observer.

Today’s Exhibition explores Gitmo through the eyes of McKinney students who traveled to GTMO as fair trial observers.

The Department of Defense grants “NGO observer status” to Non-Governmental Organizations such as McKinney’s Program in International Human Rights Law, for the stated purpose of promoting transparency at the Commissions. The McKinney human rights program then formed the MCOP – Military Commissions Observation Project. The MCOP sends McKinney faculty, staff, students and graduates to Gitmo Bay to attend, observe, analyze, critique, and publish materials on the hearings. They are fair trial observers.

Exhibition details

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Judge Fagundes and Professor Edwards at Ft. Meade, Maryland

The Exhibition, sponsored by the law school’s Program in International Human Rights Law  (PIHRL) & Master of Laws Association (MLA), is titled “Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Through the Eyes of Indiana University McKinney School of Law Observers”.

edwards and fagundes -- Pentagon -- 21 March 2017

Judge Fagundes & Professor Edwards at the Pentagon.

The Exhibition is in the Law School Atrium, 530 West New York St., Indianapolis, IN  46208. It runs from 20 April to 15 May 2017, from the end of classes, through the exam period, until the graduation ceremonies.

The Exhibition was created and organized by Judge Aline Doral Stefani Fagundes, LL.M. candidate, MLA President. Judge Fagundes traveled to Gitmo twice, and traveled to the Pentagon and to Ft. Meade, Maryland for other Guantanamo Bay – related hearings.

 

The students noted that the Exhibition would not have been possible without the help of the McKinney Graduate Programs, the Office of External Affairs, and the Office of Students Affairs.

Learn more at www.GitmoObserver.com

Some photos from the Exhibition appear below.

 

 

U.S.-Educated Detainee Asks U.S. Board To Release Him From Guantanamo

 

GTMO -- sarifulla paracha -- at age 67 -- with smile

Mr. Parahca two years ago at age 67

This morning, in a dark, locked, secure Pentagon conference room, I attended a hearing in which Guantanamo’s oldest detainee, 69-year-old Mr. Saifullah Paracha, asked the U.S. government to set him free. I was joined by Judge Aline Fagundes, who is a Master of Laws (LL.M.) student at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, and several other carefully screened civilian monitors.

 

The hearing was held pursuant to a 2011 Executive Order issued by President Barack Obama that provides detainees periodic reviews to determine if the detainees are a threat to U.S. national security. If the Periodic Review Board (PRB) finds that the detainee is a threat, he remains detained. If he is found not to be a threat, he may be repatriated to his home country or resettled in a third country.

Mr. Paracha argued for his release. The government alleged that Mr. Paracha was a “businessman and facilitator on behalf of al-Qa’ida senior leaders and operational planners”.

The PRB is expected to render a decision in Mr. Paracha’s case in about a month.

Today’s hearing – Who? Where?

Today at the Pentagon we had 6 observers from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media. Two of us were from the Guantanamo Bay project I founded at Indiana University McKinney School of Law (GitmoObserver.com). Our project sponsors Indiana Affiliates to travel to hearings at Guantanamo, the Pentagon, and Ft. Meade, Maryland.

We were met by 2 military and one civilian escort in the Pentagon’s Visitor Center, and escorted to a conference room where we talked amongst ourselves and listened to the Military History Channel, waiting for the hearing to commence.

Others present for the hearing included members of the “Board” itself that conducts the PRBs, and that consisted of one representative each from the Departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security; the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. These individuals were not with us at the Pentagon, but were at a separate, undisclosed location in the DC area. It is believed that also present for the hearing, also at one or more undisclosed locations, were the Legal Advisor to the Board, the Case Administrator, a Hearing Clerk, and a Security Officer.

The detainee – Mr. Paracha – was present, by close circuit TV.

Mr. Paracha was joined by a “personal representative”, who is a military official dressed in uniform, who has been spending time with the Mr. Paracha and helping him present his case. The personal representative is not a lawyer or other sort of legal professional, and communications between Mr. Paracha and his personal representative are not protected by attorney client or similar privilege.

 The hearing begins

 The hearing was scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m., but what appears to have been a technical glitch resulted in a delay. Some of us were concerned, since at the last PRB we attended the audio feed was great from Guantanamo Bay but there was no visual feed so the screen was blank. Today’s visual feed was blurry, but at least we could see the Guantanamo hearing room and its occupants, unlike at the last PRB.

GTMO -- sarifulla paracha -- at age 62

Mr. Paracha

At 9:14 a.m., a picture appeared on the almost ceiling-height screen.

 

In our dimly lit conference room, we saw on the screen the dimly lit Guantanamo room where the detainee sat at the end of a rectangular table, facing the camera, with a stack of papers in front of him. They were in one of Guantanamo’s trailer-like, austere, rooms that had plain walls, floor, and table.

In contrast to the bland surroundings, the hearing room had high back office chairs, that looked like high-quality leather chairs one might see in a law associate’s office.  Aside from air conditioner units, seemingly from the 80s, hanging window-height on the wall behind Mr. Paracha’s head, there was nothing else on the walls.

On the table in front of Mr. Paracha’s seat was a table-top name plate that said in large, bold, all capital letters “DETAINEE”.

Mr. Paracha wore a white top, with somewhat short sleeves that appeared bunched at the elbows. His attire was clearly not a detainee “uniform”. Through the blur it appeared as though he had a white beard and a bald head.

The personal representative sat at the table on Mr. Paracha’s right, perpendicular to him, and not directly next to him.

The hearing began with a male, off-camera voice announcing that the hearing was commencing, mentioning some hearing rules, identifying who was present – boiler point.

Next came a female voice, again off camera. This voice read the Government’s Unclassified Statement, as follows:

Saifullah Paracha (PK-1094) was a Pakistan-based businessman and facilitator on behalf of al-Qa’ida senior leaders and operational planners. He met Usama Bin Ladin in 1999 or 2000 and later worked with external operations chief Khalid Shaykh Muhammad (KU-10024) to facilitate financial transactions and propaganda. Since his arrival at Guantanamo, Paracha has been very compliant with the detention staff and has espoused moderate views and acceptance of Western norms. Although there is no indication that he is in communication with extremists outside Guantanamo, Paracha’s extensive extremist business contacts that he established before his detention could provide him opportunities to reengage upon release should he choose to use them. 

Mr. Paracha appeared to be paying close attention to whichever person happened to be speaking at the time – one of the off-camera narrators or his personal representative. The hearing was conducted in English, as a voice in the background stated that Mr. Paracha had waived his right to an interpretation of the hearing in another language of his choice.

While the personal representative spoke, Mr. Paracha would from time to time glance at her. At other times he appeared focused on the papers in front of him, appearing to follow along in English, flipping pages as the script was being read. At times he would place his left open palm firmly on the stack of papers, as though holding them down from a breeze.

The hearing ended at 9:19 — just 5 minutes after it began. This was the shortest PRB I have attended. They typically begin at 9:00 and run no longer than 30 minutes.

No private counsel of Mr. Parach attended today’s PRB, and no statement was read by any private counsel for Mr. Paracha’s today. That was one reason that the PRB was shorter than usual. It is unclear why private counsel did not appear today.  A statement by the private counsel Mr. David H. Remes had been posted on the Perriodic Review Board website here. But, that statement was the same statement submitted under Mr. Remes for Mr. Paracha’s file review PRB in 2016. That statement ended with this sentence:

For these reasons, I respectfully encourage the Board to convene a full review and hope that it will conclude that Mr. Paracha’s continued detention is unwarranted.

David H. Remes

Approved for Public Release
UNCLASSIFIED

That statement asked the Board to convene a “full review”, and today’s hearing was the “full review” requested. If Mr. Remes submitted a private counsel statement for today’s hearing, that statement was not posted on the PRB website (as of tonight — 8:55 p.m., Tuesday, 21 March 2017), and was not read at today’s hearing. What was posted online under Mr. Remese name was from last year.

Mr. Paracha’s background

Mr. Paracha, who is 69 years of age, is a former Pakistan-based businessman. He lived in the U.S. for about 15 years until the mid-1980s and went to college in the U.S.

Uzair Paracha

Uzair Paracha, Mr. Paraha’s son, is serving a 30 year sentence in a U.S. federal prison on terrorism-related convitions.

The U.S. alleges that Mr. Paracha worked with high level members of al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden. Mr. Paracha denies this. Mr. Paracha’s eldest son, Uzair Paracha, who was convicted in a U.S. federal court on charges related to terrorism, is serving a 30-year sentence.

 

Mr. Paracha was arrested in 2003 after arriving on a flight in Bangkok, Thailand, where he said he was going for business. He was sent to a prison camp in Europe for about 10 months, then sent to Guantanamo.

Mr. Paracha’s health has not been great, both before he arrived at Guantanamo in 2004 and while there. He has heart problems (including at least 2 heart attacks) and diabetes.

The hearing – a Periodic Review Board – PRB

Today’s hearing is called a Periodic Review Board (PRB),  and was pursuant to a 7 March 2011 Executive Order (number 13567) which has required most detainees to have a “periodic review” of their detention status.

The PRB process is a “discretionary administrative interagency process to review whether continued detention of particular individuals held at Guantanamo remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”   Per the Executive Order, PRBs are not intended to ascertain the legality of a prisoner’s detention. To the contrary, it has been stated, it decides whether continued detention is warranted given “important” interests.

Each detainee receives an “initial PRB” at which they have the option of appearing in their own behalf. If they are not released, every 6 months they have a “file review,” at which they are not entitled to appear, with decisions made based on their file. Per the Executive Order, every 3 years after that they have a “full review”, at which the detainee may again appear on his own behalf.

Paracha’s 3 PRB hearings — summary

Mr. Paracha had an “initial PRB” on 8 March 2016 and a “file PRB review” on 27 September 2016. The hearing on Tuesday will be his “full PRB”.

The Periodic Review Board, by consensus, determined that continued law of war detention of the detainee remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States. In making this determination, the Board considered the detainee’s past involvement in terrorist activities, including contacts and activities with Usama Bin Laden, Kahlid Shaykh Muhammad and other senior al-Qaeda members, facilitating financial transactions and travel, and developing media for al-Qaeda. The Board further noted the detainee’s refusal to take responsibility for his involvement with al-Qaeda, his inability and refusal to distinguish between legitimate and nefarious business contacts, his indifference toward the impact of his prior actions, and his lack of a plan to prevent exposure to avenues of reengagement.

  • File Review. Paracha had a PRB file review on 27 September 2016, and on 12 October 2016 the Board concluded:

MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD

SUBJECT: Periodic Review Board File Review – Saifullah Abdullah Paracha (PK-I 094)

On 28 September 2016, the PRB conducted a file review for Saifullah Abdullah Paracha (PK- l 094) in accordance with Executive Order (E.O.) 13567, “Periodic Review of Individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station Pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force.”  The PRB previously conducted a full review of the detainee and on 7 April 2016 determined that continued detention was necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.  After reviewing relevant new information related to the detainee as well as information considered during the full review, the Board, by consensus, determined that a significant question is raised as to Whether the detainee’s continued detention is warranted and therefore an additional full review should be conducted in accordance with section 3(c) of E.O. 13567.

  • Full Review. It was Mr. Paracha’s full review that was held today. It should be noted that PRBs do not assess the defendant’s guilt or innocence, and are not criminal proceedings. A determination will be made as to whether the detainee is a threat to the U.S. He is hoping that the U.S. will repatriate him to Pakistan or send him to a 3rd country – outside the U.S.

 The Board will likely publish a decision on this full review in a month or so.

More on this hearing?

The initial part of the PRB was unclassified, and that is the portion of the PRB that Judge Fagundes, the other monitors and I observed. During that portion of the PRB, we were sitting in a secure Pentagon viewing room watching Mr. Paracha and his personal representative live from Guantanamo Bay.

PRBs v. Military Commissions

Military commission are criminal proceedings that are geared towards determining whether defendants are guilty of offenses that are charged. Generally, the outcome of a military commission would be that the defendant is found guilty of the charges or the defendant is acquitted of the charges. Military commissions operate pursuant to the Military Commission Act of 2009, a federal statute.

PRBs are administrative proceedings that seek to determine whether a detainee is a threat to the national security of the U.S. The outcome of a PRB is that a detainee is considered a threat and will thus remain at Guantanamo Bay, or is not considered a threat and can be placed on a list for possible repatriation to his home country or resettlement in a third country. PRBs operate pursuant to an Executive Order issued in 2011.

Military commissions examine what the detainee alleged did in the past – his prior conduct – and assess the legality of that conduct. PRBs can be said to focus more on the detainee’s future conduct – whether the detainee is likely to engage in unlawful or otherwise threatening or harmful behavior if he is released.

 

edwards and fagundes -- Pentagon -- 21 March 2017

Professor George Edwards & Judge Aline Fagundes at the Pentagon before the Periodic Review Board (PRB) held on 21 Marh 2017

Judge Fagundes’ observations

 

Judge Fagundes is the first student from Indiana University McKinney School of Law to participate in all three types of hearings our Indiana Guantanamo Bay Military Commission Observation Project / Gitmo Observer may send affiliates to observe:

  • She traveled to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor U.S. Military Commissions live, in the courtroom.
  • She traveled to Ft. Meade, Maryland, to monitor U.S. Military Commissions via a secure videolink from Guantanamo.
  • She traveled to the Pentagon to monitor Guantanamo Bay Periodic Review Board (PRB).

Judge Fagundes is researching and writing a paper that focuses on international law requirements for transparency in the U.S. Military Commission system. She has described some of her experiences on this blog – www.GitmoObserver.com.

George Edwards

Founder, Periodic Review Board (PRB) Project

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)

Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL)

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

_______

Traveling to the Pentagon to hear Guantanamo’s Oldest Detainee Seek Release

 

GTMO -- sarifulla paracha -- at age 67 -- with smile

Mr. Saifullah Paracha

On Tuesday Guantanamo’s oldest detainee, Mr. Saifullah Paracha, will likely plead at a hearing that he is not a threat to U.S. national security. He will ask to be repatriated to his homeland of Pakistan or resettled in a 3rd country.

 

During the parole-like hearing, Mr. Paracha will be located in a small, bare trailer at Guantanamo. The proceeding will be videocast live to a small Pentagon room where I plan to watch it with a handful of other carefully screened observers, including two of my Indiana law students (Judge Aline Fagundes and another Master of Laws student).

Mr. Paracha, who is 69 years of age, is a former Pakistan-based businessman. He lived in the U.S. for about 15 years until the mid-1980s and went to college in the U.S.

Uzair Paracha

Mr. Uzair Paracha, Mr. Paracha’s son, who is serving a 40 year U.S. terrorism sentence

The U.S. alleges that Mr. Paracha worked with high level members of al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden. Mr. Paracha denies this. Mr. Paracha’s eldest son, Uzair Paracha, who was convicted in a U.S. federal court on charges related to terrorism, is serving a 30-year sentence.

 

Mr. Paracha was arrested in 2003 after arriving on a flight in Bangkok, Thailand, where he said he was going for business. He was sent to a prison camp in Europe for about 10 months, then sent to Guantanamo.

Mr. Paracha’s health has not been great, both before he arrived at Guantanamo in 2004 and while there. He has heart problems (including at least 2 heart attacks) and diabetes.

The hearing – a Periodic Review Board – PRB

This hearing at which Mr. Paracha  will argue is called a Periodic Review Board (PRB),  and will be conducted pursuant to a 7 March 2011 Executive Order (number 13567) which has required most detainees to have a “periodic review” of their detention status.

The PRB process is a “discretionary administrative interagency process to review whether continued detention of particular individuals held at Guantanamo remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”   Per the Executive Order, PRBs are not intended to ascertain the legality of a prisoner’s detention. To the contrary, it has been stated, it decides whether continued detention is warranted given “important” interests.

Each detainee receives an “initial PRB” at which they have the option of appearing in their own behalf. If they are not released, every 6 months they have a “file review,” at which they are not entitled to appear, with decisions made based on their file. Per the Executive Order, every 3 years after that they have a “full review”, at which the detainee may again appear on his own behalf.

Paracha’s 3 PRB hearings

Mr. Paracha had an “initial PRB” on 8 March 2016 and a “file PRB review” on 27 September 2016. The hearing on Tuesday will be his “full PRB”.

The Periodic Review Board, by consensus, determined that continued law of war detention of the detainee remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States. In making this determination, the Board considered the detainee’s past involvement in terrorist activities, including contacts and activities with Usama Bin Laden, Kahlid Shaykh Muhammad and other senior al-Qaeda members, facilitating financial transactions and travel, and developing media for al-Qaeda. The Board further noted the detainee’s refusal to take responsibility for his involvement with al-Qaeda, his inability and refusal to distinguish between legitimate and nefarious business contacts, his indifference toward the impact of his prior actions, and his lack of a plan to prevent exposure to avenues of reengagement.

  • File Review. Paracha had a PRB file review on 27 September 2016, and on 12 October 2016 the Board concluded:

MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD

SUBJECT: Periodic Review Board File Review – Saifullah Abdullah Paracha (PK-I 094)

On 28 September 2016, the PRB conducted a file review for Saifullah Abdullah Paracha (PK- l 094) in accordance with Executive Order (E.O.) 13567, “Periodic Review of Individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station Pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force.”  The PRB previously conducted a full review of the detainee and on 7 April 2016 determined that continued detention was necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.  After reviewing relevant new information related to the detainee as well as information considered during the full review, the Board, by consensus, determined that a significant question is raised as to Whether the detainee’s continued detention is warranted and therefore an additional full review should be conducted in accordance with section 3(c) of E.O. 13567.

  • Full Review. It is Paracha’s full review that is scheduled for this Tuesday. It should be noted that PRBs do not assess the defendant’s guilt or innocence, and are not criminal proceedings. A determination will be made as to whether the detainee is a threat to the U.S. He is hoping that the U.S. will repatriate him to Pakistan or send him to a 3rd country – outside the U.S.

 The Board will likely publish a decision on this full review in a month or so.

Below is more information about what Tuesday’s full PRB may be like.

 

podium

Judge Aline Fagundes, a Master of Laws (LL.M. student at Indiana) is expected to attend Mr. Paracha’s PRB at the Pentagon. She was at the Pentagon earlier this month for a different PRB.

What will Paracha’s PRB be like on Tuesday?

 

  • Who will be present?

 I suspect that other representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) (including 2 students from Indiana University McKinney School of Law) will be present with me at the Pentagon on Tuesday, and possibly some media. This is the third PRB to be held under the Trump Administration.

Others present for the hearing will include members of the “Board” itself that conducts the PRBs, and that consisted of one representative each from the Departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security; the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Presumably each of those representatives will watch remotely in his or her office in the DC area. Also likely to be present for the hearing are the Legal Advisor to the Board; the Case Administrator; a Hearing Clerk; and a Security Officer, though it is not clear where these individuals would be located at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere.

Who will make statements made at the PRB?

1.  First, U.S. military official will read an “Unclassified Statement”. The statement for Tuesday is already posted online, and is as follows:

Saifullah Paracha (PK-1094) was a Pakistan-based businessman and facilitator on behalf of al-Qa’ida senior leaders and operational planners. He met Usama Bin Ladin in 1999 or 2000 and later worked with external operations chief Khalid Shaykh Muhammad (KU-10024) to facilitate financial transactions and propaganda. Since his arrival at Guantanamo, Paracha has been very compliant with the detention staff and has espoused moderate views and acceptance of Western norms. Although there is no indication that he is in communication with extremists outside Guantanamo, Paracha’s extensive extremist business contacts that he established before his detention could provide him opportunities to reengage upon release should he choose to use them. 

2.  Mr. Paracha’s Pentagon-appointed personal representative may make a statement. The text of this statement has not yet been posted online.

3.  Mr. Paracha’s private counsel may make a statement. The text of this statement has not yet been posted online.

 More on this hearing?

The initial part of the PRB will be unclassified, and that is the portion of the PRB my students and I will observe. During that portion of the PRB, I will be sitting in a secure Pentagon viewing room watching the hearing live, which will be happening at Guantanamo Bay.

It is possible that the Pentagon will post a statement by Mr. Paracha and the other statements mentioned above (statement by his Pentagon-appointed personal representative and by his private counsel). If these are posted on the PRB website, I will plan to post them on this blog later.

PRBs v. Military Commissions

Military commission are criminal proceedings that are geared towards determining whether defendants are guilty of offenses that are charged. Generally, the outcome of a military commission would be that the defendant is found guilty of the charges or the defendant is acquitted of the charges. Military commissions operate pursuant to the Military Commission Act of 2009, a federal statute.

PRBs are administrative proceedings that seek to determine whether a detainee is a threat to the national security of the U.S. The outcome of a PRB is that a detainee is considered a threat and will thus remain at Guantanamo Bay, or is not considered a threat and can be placed on a list for possible repatriation to his home country or resettlement in a third country. PRBs operate pursuant to an Executive Order issued in 2011.

Military commissions examine what the detainee alleged did in the past – his prior conduct – and assess the legality of that conduct. PRBs can be said to focus more on the detainee’s future conduct – whether the detainee is likely to engage in unlawful or otherwise threatening or harmful behavior if he is released.

Conclusion

So far as we can tell, Paracha’s PRB is still scheduled to go forward on Tuesday. That is, the Pentagon has not notified us that it will not go forward. If it does go forward, it seems likely that Mr. Paracha will attend, as there has been no suggestion that he will miss his first full review.

Please watch this space for an update post-PRB.

George Edwards

Founder, Periodic Review Board (PRB) Project

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)

Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL)

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

_______

 

Know Before You Go To Guantanamo Bay Guide – Updated

Today we posted the newest version of our Know Before You Go To Guantanamo Bay GuideIt contains 90 pages of information to help you prepare for a trip to this remote Cuban military outpost, including information about the U.S. war crimes trials being held there.

Want to learn intricacies on gaining permission to travel to Guantanamo? What about information about Guantanamo Bay accommodations, restaurants, recreation, sites?

The Guide contains up-to-date information, including about the U.S. Naval Base’s newest restaurant, called Tropical Cabana, that is “Inspired by Cuba, Jamaica & the Philippines in a Relaxed Island Atmosphere”.

It also now contains information / photos of artwork done by one of the courtroom guards – animal figures made of glass collected from Glass Beach.

Safe travels!

For a copy of the Know Before You Go to Guantanamo Bay Guide click this link. Or access the Guide below:

Indiana Law School Affiliates Travel to Monitor Guantanamo Bay War Crimes Hearings

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Mr. al Nashiri

For two weeks this month, Guantanamo Bay war crimes hearings have been held in the case against Mr. Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who is alleged to have masterminded the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole off the coast of Yemen, killing 17 U.S. sailors and wounding dozens more.

Representatives of Indiana University McKinney School of Law have monitored these hearings, live in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom, and remotely by CCTV at a secure facility in Ft. Meade, Maryland.

In addition to monitoring military commissions, Indiana affiliates also monitor Guantanamo Bay Periodic Review Board hearings (PRBs), that occur live at Guantanamo Bay but are broadcast live by CCTV into a secure room at the Pentagon. The PRBs are separate and distinct from the military commissions.

All Indiana monitors carry out the 5-part mission of Indiana McKinney’s Military Commission Observation Project, to: (a) attend; (c) observer; (c) analyze; (d) critique; and (e) report on the substance and the form of the legal proceedings.

All Indiana monitors contribute to research and writing of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, which is an independent and objective guide on rights and interests of all Guantanamo Bay stakeholders, and not just the rights and interests of the defendants. The Manual examines rights and interests of the prosecution, the victims and victims’ families, the media, the public, detainees who are not charged, witnesses, the military detention center guards, and others.

Indiana monitors also contribute to the Know Before You Go to Guantanamo Bay Guide guide, which offers travelers to Guantanamo insights into what to expect there. Also, Indiana monitors contribute to the blog, resource database, and other components of our Gitmo Observer website – www.GitmoObserver.com (and our twitter feed — @GitmoObserver).

Indiana monitors who travel to Ft. Meade, the Pentagon and Guantanamo Bay carry out their responsibilities independently and objectively.

Indiana Observers at Guantanamo

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Judge Fagundes at Andrews Air Force Base in 2016 on her first of 2 trips to Guantanamo Bay.

On Saturday, 4 March 2017, Judge Aline Fagundes, who is a Master of Laws (LL.M.) student at Indiana, flew on a U.S. military flight from Andrews Air Force Base to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor a week of al Nashiri hearings. At Guantanamo Bay, she witnessed the proceedings while seated in Guantanamo’s courtroom, in a gallery behind a double-paned glass wall that separated her and other observers from the lawyers, the judge, and the defendant. This was the second trip to Guantanamo Bay for Judge Fagundes, who traveled there in 2016 to monitor hearings in the 9/11 case against the 5 alleged masterminds of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

 

DSC05378

Mr. Tex Boonjue, 2nd from left, with other human rights monitors at Andrews on Saturday, 11 March 2017, waiting for their flight to Guantanamo.

A week after she arrived, another military flight from Andrews touched down at Guantanamo, carrying Mr. Tex Boonjue, a 3rd year Indiana J.D. student. Mr. Boonjue and Judge Fagundes met briefly at the Guantanamo Air Terminal, where the baton was passed for the second week this month of on-site monitoring.  This interchange at Guantanamo marked the first time since 2003 – when Indiana McKinney affiliates fist became involved with Guantanamo – that Indiana has had 2 representatives on the ground at Guantanamo at the same time. On of the dozens of trips, Indiana has only had one representative on the island at a time.

The plane that carried Mr. Boonjue to Guantanamo picked up Judge Fagundes and brought her back to Andrews. Judge Fagundes spent the weekend in the DC area, then traveled to Ft. Meade, Maryland to witness, via CCTV, continued hearings in the al Nashiri case.

 

tex and aline at gtmo -- 11 March 2017

Mr. Tex Boonjue & Judge Aline Fagundes meet at the Guantanamo Bay Air Terminal, 11 March 2017. Fagundes was boarding the plane that had just brought Boonjue from Andrews Air Force Base

Both Mr. Boonjue and Judge Fagundes have published multiple blog entries on www.GitmoObserver.com. You can read about some of Judge Fagundes’ experiences here and about some of Mr. Boonjue’s experiences here.

Indiana Observers at Ft. Meade

Early Monday morning, 13 March 2017, Judge Fagundes arrived at the Ft. Meade Army Base in Maryland, where the Guantanamo Bay hearings are broadcast via satellite to a secure viewing room.

Upon her pre-dawn arrival, she stopped at the Ft. Meade Visitors Center, where she was able to collect a badge that granted her access to the base. She traveled about a mile onto the base to the McGill Training Center, where the Office of Military Commissions has organized a live feed from the Guantanamo Bay courtroom.

At Ft. Meade’s McGill facility, Judge Fagundes saw the Guantanamo Bay courtroom from a different perspective. While at Guantanamo, she witnessed the proceedings from the gallery, which is at the back of the courtroom, offering a view of the entire courtroom at all times. She was able to see the judge, the prosecution, the defense counsel, the defendant, the security officers in military uniform, and court staff. She could also see occupants of the viewing gallery, including other observers, media, Guantanamo Base residents who are able to sit in when seats are available, and victims and victims’ families (VFMs) (except when VFMs choose to close a curtain that separates the VFM section of the gallery from others in the gallery).

At Ft. Meade, she could only see what was broadcast from Cuba, through a courtroom camera that would point at the person currently speaking. When the judge spoke, a camera pointed at him and that was broadcast live. When the prosecutor spoke, a different camera pointed at him, and that was broadcast live. Cameras pointed at the defense counsel, the defendant, and the witnesses would come alive and broadcast when those people spoke.

When viewing proceedings at Ft. Meade, it is impossible get a clear sense of the scope of the proceedings, or the courtroom / gallery dynamics, as one can do when in they are observing live at Guantanamo.

At Ft. Meade, observers cannot witness any visual or oral reactions by VFMs, the defendant, or anyone else, unless a camera pointing towards them is activated. These cameras are only activated when an actual participant in the courtroom is speaking officially. The cameras would not necessarily point towards a defendant who was speaking out of turn, a VFM who might be reacting, or others on site who could clearly be heard / seen by any observer physically in the courtroom gallery.

edwards and fagundes -- ft meade - helicopter -- 11 March 2017

Fagundes & Edwards at the Ft. Meade Museum

At Ft. Meade, Judge Fagundes was met by Professor George Edwards, who is the founding faculty director of Indiana’s Guantanamo project.

 

Judge Fagundes and Professor Edwards viewed the hearings at Ft. Meade, while Mr. Boonjue viewed the hearings while in gallery in the back of the Guantanamo Bay Courtroom.

 Upcoming Indiana participants at Guantanamo Bay and Ft. Meade

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Mr. Brent Pierce

On Saturday, 18 March, Mr. Brent Pierce, an Indiana McKinney J.D. graduate, is scheduled to travel to Guantanamo Bay. He is likely to be on the ground there for a few minutes with Mr. Boonjue, who is due to return to Andrews on the plane that carries Mr. Pierce from Andrews.

 

Mr. Pierce is scheduled to monitor the case against the five alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.  That case has five defendants, including Khalid Shaik Mohammad. These five defendants, like Mr. al Nashiri in the U.S.S. Cole case, face the death penalty.

On Monday the 20th, when Mr. Pierce is in the Guantanamo gallery for the 9/11 hearings, Professor Edwards is scheduled to be back at Ft. Meade with another Indiana McKinney LL.M. student, who will join in monitoring the 9/11 case via CCTV.

You can read Mr. Pierce’s initial blog post here.

Substance of the al Nashiri Hearings

USS Cole Map of Ship & Devastation

A Cole bombing news article schematic. This schematic was not proffered as evidence. Photos of the ship were proffered.

The testimony on the Monday morning that Professor Edwards and Judge Fagundes were at Ft. Meade (and Mr. Boonjue was in the Guantanamo courtroom gallery) focused on pre-admitting into evidence items that the FBI recovered from the U.S.S. Cole in the days after the ship was attacked. These items included photographs of the ship, harbor where the ship was attacked, the road leading to the harbor, and the beach front where debris from the attack was washed ashore. Among the debris on the shore depicted in the photographic evidence was an uninflated Cole lifeboat and a Cole baseball cap. Also

 

A baseball cap like the one in the photograph the prosecution entered as evidence in the case against al Nashiri. A similar cap was found on the beach near the USS Cole bomb site.

admitted into evidence were fiberglass fragments that are alleged to be part of the suicide boat that attacked the Cole, debris found on Cole’s deck following the bombing, photographs of the gaping hole in the side of the Cole where the attack boat hit, and photographs of devastation inside the attacked ship.

At Ft. Meade and in the Guantanamo Gallery, observers could see some of the exhibits, including those that were projected onto the screen by a device like an overhead projector.  When exhibits were presented, at Guantanamo, observers could see and hear reactions / non-reactions by the defendant, VFMs, media, other observers, and others in the courtroom. At Ft. Meade, observers could see and hear only what came through the television monitor / speakers.

khalid-shaik-mohammad

Khalid Shaik Mohammed

Substance of the upcoming 9/11 hearings

It is unclear what will be on the agenda for the 9/11 hearings. The military judge in that case has released a docketing order, and participants know the list of pre-trial motions scheduled. But experience has demonstrated that not all motions on the order are necessarily heard during a hearing week, and at times matters not listed on the order are raised.

Periodic Review Hearings (PRB)

On Tuesday, 21 March 2017, Professor Edwards, Judge Fagundes, and another LL.M. student are scheduled to travel to the Pentagon to monitor the PRB hearing of Saifullah Paracha, from Pakistan, who at 69 years of age is the oldest detainee currently being held at Guantanamo Bay. He is alleged to have associated with members of al Qaida.

GTMO -- sarifulla paracha -- at age 67 -- with smile

Mr. Saifullah Paracha

PRBs and military commissions differ.

 

Military commission are criminal proceedings that are geared towards determining whether defendants are guilty of offenses that are charged. Generally, the outcome of a military commission would be that the defendant is found guilty of the charges or the defendant is acquitted of the charges. Military commissions operate pursuant to the Military Commission Act of 2009, a federal statute.

PRBs are administrative proceedings that seek to determine whether a detainee is a threat to the national security of the U.S. The outcome of a PRB is that a detainee is considered a threat and will thus remain at Guantanamo Bay, or is not considered a threat and can be placed on a list for possible repatriation to his home country or resettlement in a third country. PRBs operate pursuant to an Executive Order issued in 2011.

 

aldarbi

Mr. al Darbi

9/11 Hearings for the last week of March 2017; al Darbi hearings for the first week of April.

 

During the final week of March, Professor Edwards is scheduled to travel to Guantanamo Bay for the 2nd week of hearings in the 9/11 case. Mr. Brent Pierce and Professor Edwards will likely meet briefly at the Guantanamo Bay airport, to pass the baton for the final week of March hearings.

Currently, hearings are scheduled at Guantanamo Bay for the first week of April in the case of Mr. al Darbi, who is alleged to have conspired with Mr. al Nashiri in planning a failed attack on the U.S.S. Sullivan the year before the U.S.S. Cole bombing. Professor Edwards is scheduled to return to Guantanamo Bay for this hearings. Rumor has it that the April al Darbi hearings will be cancelled. Another round of al Darbi hearings is scheduled for May 2017.

joanna-leblanc-graduation-photo

Ms. Johanna Leblanc

Military commission hearings in the case against Mr. Hadi al Iraqi (a/k/a/ Nashwan al Tamir), an alleged high level member of al Qaida Iraq and liaison with the Taliban, scheduled for earlier in March 2017, were cancelled. The Indiana McKinney monitor who was scheduled to travel to Guantanamo Bay for the Hadi hearings — Ms. Johanna Leblanc — will be scheduled for a subsequent monitoring mission. Ms. Leblanc’s initial blog post on her cancelled Hadi al iraqi hearing mission can be found on www.GitmoObserver.com  here.

 

Conclusion

Though each Indiana monitor has his / her personal perspective and opinions, Indiana monitors act independently and objectively in researching and drafting our Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual and other materials that examine rights and interests of Guantanamo Bay stakeholders. The materials that Indiana has prepared are being used by many who have an interest in what happens (or what does not happen) at Guantanamo Bay. Though persons traveling to Guantanamo may have a particular interest in our Know Before You Go to Guantanamo Bay Guide, there is strong interest in our substantive publications as well.

Indiana monitors contribute to the transparency that the Pentagon has stated that it seeks with the military commissions. Indiana monitors also benefit, whether they travel to Ft. Meade, to Guantanamo Bay, or both.

If you are an Indiana McKinney affiliate – student, faculty, staff or graduate – please check our law school web page here for information on how you might participation in our Guantanamo project.

Anyone interested in our work can check our blog / website / resource database at www.GitmoObserver.com.

George Edwards

Founding Faculty Member, Military Commission Observation Project

Program in International Human Rights Law

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Updated Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual & “Know Before You Go to Guantanamo” Guide

The Gitmo Observer has updated 4 draft documents useful for anyone interested in the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba U.S. Military Commissions, and for anyone traveling to Guantanamo Bay for hearings or other purposes.

Each document is in a preliminary draft stage, with further research, writing and editing underway. Nevertheless, the Gitmo Observer hopes that these materials are helpful.

The documents, which are available for free download below, are:

guantanamo-bay-fair-trial-manual-vol-i-26-february-2017-first-page-pink(1)    Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual (Volume I) – (pink cover – 344 pages) (27 February 2017)

Lists the international and domestic law applied at the Guantanamo military commissions, explains the law, and identifies how the law affects Guantanamo stakeholders, such as the defense, prosecution, victims and victims’ families, witnesses, U.S. military who guard the detainees, the media, and other stakeholders. Explores rights and interests of all stakeholders, not just rights of the defense. 

Contains a useful Glossary for military and legal terms, and for items associated with Guantanamo Bay.

 

guantanamo-bay-fair-trial-manual-vol-ii-26-february-2017-first-page-blue(2)    Appendices to Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual (Volume II) (blue cover – 268 pages) (27 February 2017)

Contains important law documents related to the proceedings, such as the charge sheets (indictments) of the 3 major pending cases, and excerpts from binding human rights and humanitarian law treaties (e.g., Geneva Conventions, Convention Against Torture, Civil & Political Rights Covenant, Race Convention),  the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court cases, the Military Commissions Act, Presidential Executive Orders,  and military commission jurisprudence.

 

 

 

(3)    Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual Excerpts (yellow cover — 102 pages) (27 February 2017)guantanamo-bay-manual-excerpts-27-february-2017-yellow-front-cover

A selection of important sections of the Full Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial ManualProvides background information on the military commissions, descriptions of the 3 active Guantanamo Bay hearings, list of previously convicted detainees, the status of current detainees, a schematic of the courtroom (identifying principal courtroom actors), and a Glossary of military and legal terms, and for items associated with Guantanamo Bay.

 

 

 

 

(4)    Know Before You Go To Guantanamo Bay — Tips & Suggestions (green cover — 76 know-before-u-go-to-gitmo-29-dec-2016-front-coverpages) (29 December 2016)

A guide for anyone traveling to Guantanamo Bay for military commission hearings, client visits, media trips, or other purposes. Contains substantial information geared towards non-governmental organization representatives traveling to observe Guantanamo hearings, but much of the information is useful for any traveler. Contains information about lodging, Guantanamo Bay restaurants, evening / weekend adult entertainment (bars), water activities (beaches, boating, swimming),  outdoor activities (hiking, golf, tennis, etc), other sports (bowling, pool), movie theaters, gyms, religious activities (services, fellowships), and more.

 

 

If you have any comments or suggestions for our four documents, please feel free to let us know at GitmoObserver@yahoo.com.

We have received very positive, constructive feedback in the past, and we look forward to further input from you!

Yemeni Guantanamo Detainee to Ask Pentagon to Release Him

 

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al Sharqawi to ask Pentagon on Tuesday to release him from Guantanamo Bay after 15 years in custody 

On Tuesday, 28 February 2017, Abdu Ali al Haji Sharqawi, who is a Guantanamo Bay detainee from Yemen, will appear at a hearing at which he will likely tell U.S. officials that he is not a threat to U.S. national security and that he should be resettled in a 3rd country.

Sharqawi, who is 43 years of age, was picked up in Karachi, Pakistan in February 2002, one month after the first detainees were brought to Guantanamo Bay. He arrived in Guantanamo Bay in 2004, after 3 years in custody under the direction of the U.S., first in Jordan then Afghanistan. It is alleged that he was tortured in Jordan and Afghanistan.

On Tuesday he will argue for his freedom from the incarceration he has endured for almost a third of his life.

The hearing – a Periodic Review Board – PRB

This hearing at which Sharqawi will argue is called a Periodic Review Board (PRB),  and will be conducted pursuant to a 7 March 2011 Executive Order (number 13567) which has required most detainees to have a “periodic review” of their detention status.

The PRB process is a “discretionary administrative interagency process to review whether continued detention of particular individuals held at Guantanamo remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”   Per the Executive Order, PRBs are not intended to ascertain the legality of a prisoner’s detention. To the contrary, it has been stated, it decides whether continued detention is warranted given “important” interests.

Each detainee receives an “initial PRB” at which they have the option of appearing in their own behalf. If they are not released, every 6 months they have a “file review,” at which they are not entitled to appear, with decisions made based on their file. Per the Executive Order, every 3 years after that they have a “full review”, at which the detainee may again appear on his own behalf.

The Board itself consists of one representative each from the Departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security; the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

pentagonThe hearing will be held at Guantanamo Bay, but will be transmitted by CCTV to secure locations to permit review by participants and cleared persons who are not physically in the Guantanamo Bay hearing room. I plan to view from a secure room in the Pentagon.

Sharqawi’s PRB hearings

The Periodic Review Board, by consensus, determined that continued law of war detention of the detainee remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.

In making this determination, the Board considered that the detainee developed ties to senior al-Qaida leaders such as Usama Bin Laden and Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, associated with al-Qaida plotters and operatives including members of the USS Cole bombing and some of the 9111 hijackers, and probably provided logistical and financial support for al-Qaida operations to include facilitating the travel of fighters from Yemen. Further, the Board noted that the detainee’s statements and behavior while in detention indicate that he remains committed to engaging in violent acts against the United States, the difficulty in assessing his current mindset and credibility due to his decision to not participate in the hearing, and insufficient information presented to the Board regarding his plans if transferred and the support that he would have if transferred.

The Board appreciates that the detainee has engaged with his representatives to participate in the process. The Board looks forward to reviewing the detainee’s file in six months and encourages the detainee to fully participate in any future review.

Sharqawi was entitled to appear at his initial PRB last year and to speak on his own behalf. However, he did not appear, and the Board posted this notice on the PRB secretariat’s website:

“THE DETAINEE CHOSE NOT TO APPEAR BEFORE THE BOARD. THEREFORE, THE DETAINEE SESSION WAS NOT REQUIRED.”

  • File Review. Sharqawi had a PRB file review on 15 November 2016, and on 14 April 2016 the Board concluded:

MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD

SUBJECT: Periodic Review Board File Review  Sharqawi Abd u Ali al-Hajj (YM-1457)

On I November 2016, the PRB conducted a file review for Sharqawi Abd u Ali al-Hajj (YM- 1457) in accordance with Executive Order (E.O.) 13567,” Periodic Review of Individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station Pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force.”  The PRB previously conducted a full review of the detainee and on 14 April 2016 determined that continued detention was necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States. After reviewing relevant new information related to the detainee as well as information considered during the full review, the Board, by consensus, determined that a significant question is raised as to whether the detainee’s continued detention is warranted and therefore an additional full review should be conducted i n accordance with section 3(c) of E.O. 13567. [emphasis added]

  • Full Review. It is Sharqawi’s full review that is scheduled for this Tuesday. It should be noted that PRBs do not assess the defendant’s guilt or innocence, and are not criminal proceedings. A determination will be made as to whether the detainee is a threat to the U.S. He is hoping that the U.S. will send him to a 3rd country – outside the U.S. but not Yemen – for resettlement. The U.S. is not now sending detainees back to Yemen for security reasons.

What will Sharqawi’s PRB be like?

I suspect that other representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) (including 2 students from Indiana University McKinney School of Law) will be present with me at the Pentagon on Tuesday, and possibly some media. This is the second PRB to be held under the Trump Administration, and the first of these, two weeks ago, attracted more NGOs and media than most earlier PRBs. The NGOs and media representatives will view from a secure room at the Pentagon.

Others present for the hearing will include members of the “Board” itself that conducts the PRBs. Presumably each of those representatives will watch remotely in his or her office in the DC area. Also likely to be present for the hearing are the Legal Advisor to the Board; the Case Administrator; a Hearing Clerk; and a Security Officer, though it is not clear where these individuals would be located at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere.

 Statements to be made at the PRB

The initial part of the PRB will be unclassified, and that is the portion of the PRB I will observe. During that portion of the PRB, I will be sitting in a secure Pentagon viewing room watching the hearing live, which will be happening at Guantanamo Bay.

The Pentagon posted 3 statements to be read at Tuesday’s PRB’s public session:

  1. an Unclassified Summary prepared by the Government;
  2. a Statement by Sharqawi’s private outside lawyer; and
  3. a Statement by Sharqawi’s U.S. government-appointed non-lawyer “personal representative. The bodies of these three short statements are reproduced below.

The Unclassified Summary prepared by the U.S. Government to present at the PRB states, in full:

Sharqawi Abdu Ali al-Hajj (YM-1457), a.k.a. Riyadh, is a career jihadist who acted as a prominent financial and travel facilitator for al -Qa’ida and was closely tied to several senior al -Qa’ida members, including Usama Bin Ladin and Khalid Shaykh Muhammad (KU-10024), although he has repeatedly denied being an al-Qa’ida member. During his detention at Guantanamo, Riyadh has been semicompliant with the guard force and, until late 2004, provided his interrogators with a wealth of information on his extremist activities and associations. Riyadh remains a steadfast supporter of extremist causes and groups, most likely continues to view America as his enemy, and has praised recent acts of terrorism. There are no indications that Riyadh’s Yemen-based family members have engaged in extremist activities, although connections to extremist networks could offer Riyadh a potential path to reengagement in Yemen.

The private counsel for submitted a statement that provides, in full:

Members of the Periodic Review Board:

Good morning.  My name is Pardiss Kebriaei, and I am Private Counsel for Sharqawi Al Hajj.

Thank you for the opportunity for Mr. Al Haij’s subsequent full review. We are encouraged that the Periodic Review Board has been continuing its work.  The board’s purpose of whether continued detention is still necessary is vital for men like Mr. Al Hajj, who has been held in U.S. custody for over 15 years.

I am currently a Senior Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented Guantanamo detainees since 2002, including dozens of men whom the United States, under the Bush and Obama administrations, has successfully repatriated or resettled.  I have represented detainees for nearly ten years.  I have represented Mr. Al Hajj since last year.

I’ll make a few brief points about the past, present and future with respect to Mr. Al Hajj.

With respect to the past: In Mr. Al Hajj’s habeas proceedings, the government’s case-in-chief relied on statements Mr. Al Hajj made during several interrogations in Bagram and Guantanamo in 2004.  To the extent the board is considering any of this information as part of this review, it should know that then-Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the D.C. District Court struck all of these statements as unreliable; he found that they were tainted by prior physical and psychological coercion Mr. Al Hajj experienced in prisons in Jordan and Kabul after his capture.  Mr. Al Hajj is here to answer your questions about his present views and conduct, and his future intentions, but this point about the past bears noting.

With respect to the present: Mr. Al Hajj is 43 years old today.  The impulses and views that led to his detention were by a young man in his 20s.  The government’s unclassified profile of Mr. Al Hajj states that he ”most likely continues to view America as his enemy.” That description is outdated.  Mr. Al Hajj’s detention has necessarily entailed interactions with Americans of different stripes over the years that have complicated and changed his view. Blanket statements no longer apply.

Moreover, Mr. Al Hajj’s health may be seriously compromised.  He reports bouts of jaundice and weakness which, according to independent physicians with whom his counsel have consulted, may indicate a potentially grave liver condition that should be investigated.  A medical expert opinion is included in Mr. Al Hajj’s detainee submission.  Far from having the desire or energy for any involvement in conflict, the hardship of the past 15 years makes him want to tum away.

Finally, with respect to the future: Mr. Al Hajj would accept resettlement in any safe country the government believes appropriate.  His family stands ready and able to provide financial and moral support for his reintegration wherever that may be, as they have stated in the detainee submission.  My organization, which has worked closely with envoys from the Defense and State Departments on detainee transfers in prior years, also stands ready to assist.

Sharqawi’s “personal representative”, who is a non-lawyer appointed by the U.S. military, submitted a statement that provides, in full:

Members of the board, thank for allowing Mr. Sharqawi Abdu Ali Al-Hajj to have a second chance at hearing his case. I am his Personal Representative. He made the decision to not attend his first board because he did not feel confident sitting before the board without a Private Counsel. At that time, he still feared that the Board was a legal proceeding versus an administrative board and therefore, he did not want to attend without having his lawyer present.

But, since that time, he has attended every meeting with me and been very cordial. He is easy to get along with and is obviously a very intelligent person, who communicates well. He has worked well with both a female Personal Representative and Private Counsel.

Since Sharqawi has moved camps, he has worked to build his relationships with fellow detainees. During our conversations, he has indicated that since he has been here, he has learned to appreciate other people’s cultures which he had not before. He is actively participating in classes to prepare for life after Guantanamo and he speaks English quite well. His Private Counsel has been in contact with his family to confirm that they will support him after his departure from GTMO. He is open to repatriation anywhere and feels he is capable of working in other cultures since he has learned to work with other detainees in GTMO.

I appreciate your consideration of his case today as he answers your questions so you can decide if he still poses a threat to the U.S.

 Conclusion

So far as we can tell, Sharqawi’s PRB is still scheduled to go forward on Tuesday, 28 February 2017. That is, the Pentagon has not notified us that it will not go forward. If it does go forward, it seems likely that Sharqawi will attend, which he did not do for his initial PRB last year.

Please watch this space for an update post-PRB.

George Edwards

Founder, Periodic Review Board (PRB) Project

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)

Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL)

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

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First Guantanamo hearings in Trump Era possibly derailed

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Cheryl Bormann, counsel to 9/11 case defendant Waleed bin Attash, did not travel to Guantanamo Bay reportedly due to a medical emergency. (Photo from Flickr)

The first Trump-Era Guantanamo Bay war crimes hearings are set to commence tomorrow, 25 January 2017, but they may be derailed. A death penalty lawyer for one of the accused is absent from Guantanamo this week due to a medical emergency, and it is unclear whether hearings can or will go forward in her absence. Her client, one of the 5 alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, is entitled to death penalty counsel. Ms. Bormann is the only death penalty lawyer who is representing him.

 

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Walid bin Attash, a 9/11 case defendant who faces the death penalty, is without his death penalty lawyer for this week’s hearings at Guantanamo

The military judge for the case ordered that the hearings go forward on Wednesday morning, 25 January 2017, despite objection by the defense. If hearings commence on Wednesday morning as scheduled, it is unclear whether they will continue for the full 2 scheduled weeks, or whether they will come to a hasty end Wednesday, Thursday or Friday if objections continue.

Hearing participants — travel to / from Guantanamo

The hearings are held at the remote Caribbean island U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, yet the only participants in the hearings who reside at Guantanamo Bay are the detainee defendants. Virtually everyone else involved lives in the mainland U.S., and must be shuttled down.  Typically a day or two before hearings commence, hundreds participant convene at Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, D.C. and board a military plane for Guantanamo. This includes the judge and his staff, the prosecution team, 5 sets of defense lawyers and their staff, interpreters and translators, media, independent observers / monitors, and victims and victims’ family members. If hearings last for two or more weeks, on the weekend in between planes shuttle to / from Guantanamo Bay swapping out media, observers / monitors, and victims and their family members, most of whom attend for one week at a time only.

A question remains as to whether a plane will depart Andrews as scheduled on Saturday, 28 January 2016, carrying observers / monitors, media and victims and their family members for hearings next week, or whether next week’s hearings will be cancelled.

Docketing Order

Earlier this month the court’s docketing order listed topics to be covered this week and next. Here is the docketing order:

George Edwards

Professor of Law

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Founder, Military Commission Observation Project & GitmoObserver

Founder, Program in International Human Rights Law

Obama Inauguration Flag to be Donated to Indiana National Guard After Flown at Guantanamo on 9/11 Anniversary

 

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With flag flown over Guantanamo’s Camp Justice on the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 (September 11, 2016), and flown over the U.S. Capitol on Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day (January 20, 2009)

A U.S. flag flown over Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on the 15th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had also flown over the U.S. Capitol Building on the day Barack Obama was inaugurated as U.S. President, 20 January 2009, exactly 8 years ago today.

Five alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks who are detained at Guantanamo face war crimes trials there by U.S. Military Commission. The courtroom is at Guantanamo’s Camp Justice, where the Obama inauguration flag was flown on 11 September 2016, the 15th anniversary of 9/11

This flag flown at the inauguration and on the 9/11 anniversary is being donated to the Indiana National Guard to hang in their Armory in Indianapolis.

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Indiana’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Courtney P. Carr speaks at a departure ceremony for 60 Hoosier Guardsmen with the 38th Infantry Division in Indianapolis, 20 November 2015. The Guardsmen were to “oversee safe, secure, humane, legal, and transparent care and custody of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Lowry)

Why donate this flag to the @Indiana National Guard?

In September 2016, about 90 soldiers from the Indiana National Guard, 38th Infantry Division, the Cyclone Division were finishing a 9-month deployment to Guantanamo Bay (2015 – 2016), with another 90 of their soldiers commencing a 9-month deployment to the remote island naval base (2016 – 2017). The soldiers performed various functions across the base, from public affairs, to logistics, to law.

In September 2016, I hand-carried the Obama Inauguration flag to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and it was flown there on 11 September.

The Indiana University McKinney School of Law, where I have taught for many years, has a long history with Guantanamo Bay. My students and I became involved with Guantanamo in 2003—conducting research, providing research memos, consulting (and I was called as an expert witness on a Guantanamo case).

Our Indiana law school has also been sending students, faculty, staff and graduates to Gitmo for years as independent Observers / Monitors, and through our Military Commission Observation Project undertake to attend, observe, analyze, critique and report on Military Commission hearings. We have produced the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, which examines rights and interests of a range of Guantanamo stakeholders, including the defendants, the prosecution, defense counsel, victims and their familes, observers, witnesses, soldiers deployed to Guantanamo, media, and others.

Furthermore, we at the law school have produced Know Before Your Go to Guantanamo Bay, which is available for anyone who travels to Guantanamo Bay for any purpose, related to the Military Commissions or otherwise, as it provides information about the Commissions as well as about many non-Commission aspects of Guantanamo Bay.

A forthcoming book is The Guantanamo Bay Reader, which tells the story of the Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions from the mouths and perspectives of those who have shaped, are shaping, and will shape the Guantanamo Bay experience.

Many Indiana Guard members have been Indiana law students / graduates, and some of them have been deployed to Guantanamo Bay.

The Indiana Cyclones have sent troops to Guantanamo for years, and indeed have a long history of servicing the nation there and elsewhere, with multiple deployments to perform military duties in places such as Afghanistan and Kosovo in addition to Guantanamo.

Another flag with inauguration / 911 anniversary provenance

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Indiana McKinney law graduate at Camp Justice (Guantanamo) in front of the flagpole where the Inauguration flag was flown on 9/11 2016. The US flag is at half-mast for the death of former US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

I have another flag with identical provenance – flown above the US Capitol 8 years ago today, and flown at Camp Justice on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

I am donating this 2nd flag to the Indiana University McKinney School of Law to hang in our building – to help demonstrate the overlapping Guantanamo Bay connections of the Indiana National Guard and our students, faculty, staff and graduates, and to demonstrate our pride at the great service performed for the school, the city of Indianapolis the state of Indiana the U.S., and the international community.

Hanging next to these donated flags – at the Indiana National Guard Armory and at the law school — will be the framed President Obama Inauguration Certificate, the framed Gitmo Camp Justice Certificate, and a framed letter explaining all of the above.

George Edwards

At Joint Base Andrews Flying to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

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Sunrise over the snowy Joint Base Andrews Airstrip.

[Posted on behalf of S. Willard]

This morning (Sunday the 8th of January) I am traveling to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to serve as an observer / monitor of criminal hearings in a U.S. military commission case against Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, who is an alleged high ranking member of al Qaeda Iraq and liaison with the Taliban. The U.S. has charged with war crimes resulting in deaths.

I am an Indiana University McKinney School of Law student on mission representing the Indiana University Program on International Human Rights Law’s (PIHRL) Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP). As an observer / monitor, my role is to attend, observe, analyze, critique and report on the military commissions – both the substance and the process.

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My passport and Gitmo flight boarding pass.

I arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside of Washington, DC, at 5:00 a.m. for my flight to Cuba, which is supposed to depart at 8:00 a.m. I checked in for my flight, presenting my passport, my Military Orders, and my APACS (which I explain in an earlier blog). It looks like the flight is on schedule this morning.

I met my fellow NGO observers from different human rights groups (NGOs), and we are almost ready to board our plane to take off for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from Andrews Air Force Base (which is the home of Air Force 1). We were told that the travel will be about 3 hours and 15 minutes.

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My boarding pass for Gitmo, & my yellow Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual: Excerpts.

I have my boarding pass in hand (see the photo) and my yellow Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual: Excerpts copies of which I distributed to the other observers.

I took a few photos at Andrews this morning. I will post additional photos and substantive posts when I arrive at Guantanamo Bay. Because I am having trouble with wifi at Andrews, I am asking Professor Edwards (the Indiana program founding director) if he will post this Andrews Post for me.

Sheila Willard (J.D. Candidate, ’18)

NGO Monitor, U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)

Program in International Human Rights Law

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

(Posted by G. Edwards on behalf of S. Willard)

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Are you going to Guantanamo? New Manual Excerpts for NGO Observers & Others

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Click this link for the full Manual — over 500 pages. Below you can download the Manual Excerpts!

If you’re going to Guantanamo Bay in January 2017, you might be interested in our new Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual: Excerpts that offers insights into:

  • what the right to a fair trial is and how a fair trial should look
  • how to assess whether a fair trial is being afforded to all Guantanamo stakeholders
  • roles & responsibilities of independent Observers sent to monitor Guantanamo hearings
  • background info on Guantanamo the military commissions
  • a schematic of the courtroom (so you can know who is who)
  • and a 76 page “Know Before You Go To Guantanamo” insert that will tell you what to expect on your flight to Cuba, the ferry ride across Guantanamo Bay from the landing strip to your Quonset Hut accommodations, base security, food (which can be quite good!), beach, boating, and of course the courtroom, the hearings, and briefings by the prosecution and defense.

In the past, the Gitmo Observer (of Indiana University McKinney School of Law) distributed Manual Excerpts to Observers after we arrived at Andrews Air Force on the morning of our flight to Cuba (or distributed at Ft. Meade, Maryland, for Observers monitoring live by secure video-link from Cuba). Observers said they wish they had had it earlier.

So, we started to e-mail the Manual Excerpts to Observers as soon as we were sent e-mail addresses of Observers scheduled to travel, and we would receive those e-mails 3 – 6 days before the scheduled departure. Observers said that they wish they had it even earlier than that, that 3 – 6 days in advance wasn’t enough time.

So now we are posting the Manual Excerpts on this site, for access by anyone interested, whether or note traveling to Guantanamo Bay (or Ft. Meade or elsewhere), but especially for those traveling to Guantanamo Bay to monitor 3 weeks of January 2017 hearings. Ideally, about 40 independent observers would travel to Gitmo this month, to fill all the slots allocated to observers.

The Defense Department has stated that it favors strong and robust transparency. Having full complements of Observers for each hearing week would help promote transparency, human rights, and the rule of law for all military commission stakeholders (with stakeholders including the defense, the prosecution, victims and their families, witnesses, the media, observers, observer escorts / minders, the public, the U.S. soldiers and others who operate the detention facilities, the military commission court staff, and others).

Here are the Excerpts! Please let us know if you have any suggestions for improving our Excerpts, our full Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual (over 500 pages in 2 volumes!) and our Know Before You Go To Guantanamo Guide (76 pages). Send to GitmoObserver@yahoo.com

What you may want to know before traveling to Guantanamo Bay’s war crimes court

omc-legal-signDid you receive a rare Pentagon invitation to travel to Guantanamo Bay for war crimes hearings?

If so, are you searching for info on how to prepare for a Guantanamo trip, what to pack, will your U.S. mobile phone work, what about internet access, how is flying on a military plane from Andrews Air Force Base different from flying civilian, do you need your passport, can you meet detainees and see the prisons camps, will you have the resources needed to accomplish your Guantanamo mission / goals?

Each new Guantanamo traveler has these and other questions, which are answered in this revised and expanded Know Before You Go to Guantanamo Guide (downloadable below).

In 24 Chapters (76 pages, 2 Appendices), the Guide speaks directly to non-governmental organization (NGO) observers, who play a specific, valuable role at Guantanamo Bay. The Guide anticipates new observers’ concerns, and addresses them methodically and comprehensively, and helps observers prepare for their missions. The Guide may be helpful for anyone traveling to Guantanamo hearings, including media, court staff, witnesses, foreign government representatives, etc.

The Guide notes that monitors (also to as “non-governmental organization observers” or “NGO observers”) have the responsibility to attend, observe, analyze, review and critique Guantanamo Bay Military Commission (war crimes) hearings. This requires substantive preparation before traveling to Guantanamo, full schedules on the ground there, and follow-up upon return to the U.S.

Monitors (and others) must eat, sleep and exercise at Guantanamo and the Guide informs about that, and about Guantanamo tourist attractions, souvenirs, and entertainment such as outdoor movies.

Here is the Guide:

Pentagon’s observation / monitoring program

The Pentagon has been permitting NGO observers to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor cases against men charged with heinous crimes concerning the 9/11 World Trade Center and Pentagon attack, the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole off the coast of Yemen, and other incidents.

The monitors, who must be U.S. citizens, include representatives of human rights groups, lawyers, judges, law professors and law students, and the non-legal community members.

The Pentagon has stated that it invites monitors to promote transparency — for monitors to be the eyes and ears into Guantanamo to the outside world. Monitors attend, observe, analyze, critique and report on the substance of the war crimes hearings themselves and on the process involved in the proceedings.

Monitors assess how transparent the proceedings are, and examine whether the monitors are given the access to the personnel, proceedings, resources they need to perform their assigned tasks.

Monitors tend to travel for one week at a time, departing the U.S. on a weekend and returning the following weekend, with hearing days scheduled Monday – Friday of that week.

We hope that the Know Before You Go to Guantanamo Bay Guide is helpful to you as you prepare for your mission!
Good luck!
PS:  If you have any comments / suggestions / tips to be included in the next iteration of the Guide, please let us know in a comment below. Or, please send an e-mail to us at GitmoObserver@yahoo.com.
Thank you in advance!

I’m heading back to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba today 

My Guantanamo Bay flight boarding passport and passport, and my Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manuals.


It’s 3:59 a.m. and I just arrived at Andrews Air Force Base for my 5th or 6th trip to Cuba since the 2016 summer, and my second trip to Guantanamo Bay since the November Presidential Election. 

4:15 a.m. Sunday at Andrews Air Force Base.


This time I’m monitoring hearings in the US Military Commission against al Nashiri, who allegedly masterminded the 2000 attack on the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, killing and wounding dozens of US sailors. He is charged with a series of war crimes and faces the death penalty. 

The Andrews USO area.


My job as a human rights law monitor (or observer) is to attend, observe, analyze, critique and report on these pre-trial hearings. We are interested in whether the rights and interests of all military commmission shareholders are being afforded to them. “Stakeholders” include the defendants, and also include the victims and their families, the media, the prosecution, witnesses, the US and international communities, among others.

This should be an interesting week. We have 5 days of pre-trial hearings scheduled. The issues are plentiful, with some being novel. 

As I’m sitting here at Andrews, I’m observing al Nashiri’s lawyers enter the terminal, members of the prosecution team, human  rights group (NGO) representatives, IT staff, trial judiciary staff, and others, all waiting for our 8:00 a.m. flight. 

Why arrive at 4:00 a.m. for an 8:00 a.m. flight? Well, because we were instructed to do so. That’s it. 

Jefferson Memorial–3:45 a.m.–while driving to Andrews Air Force base.


George Edwards

Yemeni Detainee asks Obama Administration to release him from Guantanamo

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al Ansi in a Department of Defense photo.

Today, after 14 years imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a Yemeni detainee named Mohammad Ahmad Abdallah al Ansi asked the U.S. Government to transfer him from Cuba to a third country. If released, 58 detainees would remain at Guantanamo, down from a record high of 780 detainees.

This parole board like hearing is called a Periodic Review Board (PRB), and was convened pursuant to President Obama’s 2011 Executive Order calling for PRBs to ascertain whether detainees pose a continuing threat to the national security of the U.S. If a detainee does not pose such a threat, he may be repatriated to his home country or transferred to a third country. It is unknown whether the next President will rescind this Executive Order and cease Period Reviews, and whether any of the 5 dozen remaining detainees will be released after January 2017.

President Obama’s 2011 Executive Order calls for three types of PRBs: (a) an Initial PRB for all detainees, involving a hearing at which the detainee may appear and speak on his own behalf; (b) a file PRB, held 6 months after a detainee is denied release following an initial PRB and which detainees are prohibited from attending; and (c) a full PRB, held if after a file review the Board finds that the detainee is a “continuing” risk to US national security.

Al Ansi, who is also known as prisoner number YM – 029, had his initial PRB in February 2016, a file PRB in September 2016, and a full PRB today. This article discusses the initial, file and full reviews.

al Ansi’s initial PRB

At al Ansi’s initial PRB on 23 February 2016, he appeared in person. On 23 March 2016, a month after the initial PRB, the Board made its final determination as follows:

The Periodic Review Board, by consensus, determined that continued law of war detention of the detainee remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.

In making this determination, the Board considered the significant derogatory information regarding the detainee’s past activities in Afghanistan. Further, the Board noted the detainee’s lack of candor resulting in an inability to assess the detainee’s credibility and therefore his future intentions.

The Board looks forward to reviewing the detainee’s file in six months and encourages the detainee to continue to be compliant, continue taking advantage of educational opportunities and continue working with the doctors to maintain his health. The Board encourages the detainee to be increasingly forthcoming in communications with the Board.

al Ansi’s file review PRB

After his initial PRB, al Ansi had a file review PRB, which he was not permitted to appear, with a Board determination based only on his written “file”.  His file review was held on 13 or 14 September 2016 (according to http://www.prs.mil), and on 14 September 2016 (according to the written file review final determination) the Board ruled as follows:

MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD

SUBJECT: Periodic Review Board File Review – Muhammad Ahmad Abdalla al-Ansi (YM- 029)

On 14 September 2016, the PRB conducted a file review for Muhammad Ahmad Abdalla al­ Ansi (YM-029) in accordance with Executive Order (E.O.) 13567, “Periodic Review of Individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station Pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force.”  The PRB previously conducted a full review of the detainee and on 23 March 2016 determined that continued detention was necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.  After reviewing relevant new information related to the detainee as well as information considered during the full review, the Board, by consensus, determined that a significant question is raised as to whether the detainee’s continued detention is warranted and therefore an additional full review should be conducted in accordance with section 3(c) of E.0.  13567.

I watched al Ansi's PRB broadcast live from Guantanamo Bay into a nondescript Pentagon conference room this morning, with a handful of human rights advocates and one member of the media.

I watched al Ansi’s PRB broadcast live from Guantanamo Bay into a nondescript Pentagon conference room this morning, with a handful of human rights advocates and one member of the media.

al Ansi’s Full PRB

Today’s PRB (6 December 2016) as Ansi had a “full” PRB review.

Today’s full PRB, like all the other PRBs, was held at Guantanamo Bay. Today’s session was broadcast by live close circuit TV (CCTV) to a secure location at the Pentagon for viewing by non-governmental organizations and the media.

I observed the hearing in a modest Pentagon conference room, joined by representatives of non-governmental organizations (Judicial Watch, Heritage Foundation, ACLU, and Human Rights First) and the media (Courthouse News). When we watched these proceedings piped in from Guantanamo, we also had 2 to 3 military or civilian escorts or technicians in the room with us, but I will not reveal further information about the identities, ranks or affiliations of these individuals (all of whom are always very friendly and nice!).

Members of the PRB Board – which comprises one representative each from the Departments of Homeland Security, State, Justice and Defense; the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the Office of the Director of National Security – were not physically at Guantanamo Bay, but watched the proceedings from the D.C. area, presumably from their respective offices.

It is unclear when the Board is expected to make a final determination on this full PRB, and whether that determination will be made before the Obama Administration ends on 20 January 2017.

Some of the words spoken during the hearing were in Arabic, and were spoken by an on-camera interpreter.

An off camera voice, presumably from but not necessarily from Guantanamo, advised in English on the nature of the hearing, the format, and the short agenda.

Another off camera voice read aloud the government’s “unclassified summary statement”, in English, of behavior that al Ansi allegedly engaged in, both before he arrived at Guantanamo and after he arrived.

After the government’s unclassified summary statement, the personal representative read an opening statement in English.

Then, al Ansi’s private counsel read a statement, also in English.

After the statements, an off camera voice asked if anyone had any questions. There were none.

The unclassified portion of hearing ended roughly 15 minutes after it started. Observers were invited to leave the conference room, since Observers are not permitted to observe classified portions of the PRB hearings.

Who is Mohammad Ahmad Abdallah al Ansi?

He is 40 or 41 years of age, born in Yemen. The government paints a picture of him as an avowed war criminal member of al Qaeda, as being loyal to Osama bin Laden, and as a person slated for an aborted hijacking in Asia meant to coincide with 9/11. The government has kept al Ansi in prison at Guantanamo Bay for over 14 years, and has on multiple occasions affirmatively ruled that he posed a threat to the national security of the U.S. Indeed, this same PRB ruled twice this year (February and September 2016) that al Ansi should not be released.

al Ansi’s personal representative and private counsel painted a different picture of al Ansi. The private counsel spoke about al Ansi’s suitability for release, and what he might do constructively upon release. Though the personal representative did not directly speak to the issue of whether he thought al Ansi posed a continuing threat to U.S. national security, the personal representative did not speak against release.

Today’s hearing itself

Today’s full PRB hearing commenced about 9:06 and ended 15 minutes later at about 9:21.

al Ansi sat at the head of a small white rectangular table that appeared to be in a Guantanamo Bay “trailer” (and not in a Guantanamo Bay courtroom). On the long side of the table to his left sat his personal representative in a U.S. military uniform. Directly across from him, to al Ansi right, sat the linguist. Next to the linguist was the private counsel, sitting closest to the camera.

Throughout much of the hearing, al Ansi, who was dressed in white non-descript attire, sat with his elbows resting on the table, hunched a little forward, flipping through documents in front of him, possibly reading through the documents. It was impossible for us to see on the screen what the nature was of the pages in front of al Ansi, or in what language the pages were written. At times he would rest his forearms on the table, with his hand clasped, eyes cast downward.

Government’s unclassified statement

An off-camera woman’s voice read aloud the Government’s “unclassified statement” in which the Pentagon contended that al-Ansi

traveled to Afghanistan in 1999, where he joined al-Qa’ida, swore bayat to Usama Bin Ladin, and served as Bin Ladin’s bodyguard. Judging from other detainee statements and corroborating information [al-Ansi] may have been selected to participate in an aborted hijacking plot in Asia intended to coincide with the 9/11 attacks. He was captured by Pakistani authorities after the battle of Tora Bora in 2001. [al-Ansi] has been mostly compliant with the detention staff at Guantanamo, and his last disciplinary infraction was in June 2014. He has not expressed support for extremist causes or maintained contact with terrorists at large.”

Private Counsel Arguments supporting al Ansi’s request for transfer

al-Ansi’s was represented at this PRB by private counsel Beth Jacob who is a partner at the New York law firm Kelley Drye & Warren, where she represents generic pharmaceutical companies.  Before she joined Kelley Drye & Warren, she represented the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey in litigation arising out of the 9/11 attacks, representing 9/11 victims who sought compensation. She had previously been an assistant district attorney i n New York, prosecuting fraud and official corruption.

She only began representing al Ansi since after his initial PRB ruling finding that he continued to pose a threat to national security of the United States.

She pointed out that al Ansi showed her some of the artwork created at Guantanamo Bay, and she showed it to a New York-based artist, who “was struck by his ability and innate talent , as she has written in her letter to this Board”.

In arguing that al Ansi should be released from Guantanamo Bay, she noted that the New York artist and Reprieve said that. “Mr. al Ansi’s art will stand him in good stead if he is deemed transferrable” for several reasons, including: (a) ‘it will give him something to do and a means of expression, in the first days and weeks after his transfer”; (b) “he will be part of the community of artists, which will provide stability and social contacts; and (c) “there i s the possibility of earnings from his art.” She went further to state that “Mr. al Ansi is planning for more practical ways to make a living – he told me he would like a construction job, and among the many classes that he is taking here at GTMO is one about small business.”

In support of her arguments supporting al Ansi’s transfer, his private counsel argued that his: “family still has resources which they are completely willing to use to help their brother start a new life after Guantanamo , as shown by the statements the family submitted to the first board and this panel. His family will be a stabilizing force when he is transferred.

Further, she argued that his health situation supported transfer, though the details of his health situation were not revealed, as a portion of her letter was redacted. She wrote:

The second factor [supporting transfer] is his health. [Redacted] [Redacted] [Redacted] [Redacted] He knows that managing these chronic conditions takes much time, effort and attention, and that he must follow a strict diet and exercise regimen , in addition to his medications.

She argued that if released, he will also have support of the Carter Center, founded by President Carter, and Reprieve’s Life After Guantanamo project, which has helped over three dozen former detainees.

Personal Representative Statement

al Ansi’s personal representative, who was a military officer in fatigues, read a simple, prepared 1-page statement that noted that

al-Ansi has intensely participated in the PRB process”,  has “maintained a record of perfect attendance for meetings with his Personal Representative (PR) and Private Counsel (PC) despite the constant change in schedulling”, and that his “professional manner throughout all engagements with his PC and PR has not wavered.

The personal representative noted that:

He continues to enthusiastically maintain his compliant behavior with the Joint Task Force (JTF) Guard Force and continues to engage with the JTF Medical Staff in order to deal with chronic health issues.  In addition, Mr. Al-Ansi has not ceased to passionately take advantage of the educational opportunities to include courses in Mathematics , Science, English, Spanish, Life Skills, Computers, Art, and recently started the Arab British Academy for higher education studies.  Since July of 2016, he has created an additional 150 quality works of art.  Seven additional works of art are included in his case submission.  Recently, he has enrolled i n Small Project Management , Business Administration, Accounting and Ledgers classes.

Unlike other personal representatives in other cases, this Personal Representative did not say whether or not he believed that al Ansi is or is not a threat to the security of the United States”.

By George Edwards,

Professor of Law, Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Faculty Director (Founding), Guantanamo Bay Periodic Review Board (PRB) Project

Faculty Director (Founding), U.S. Military Commission Observation Project

Arriving at Guantanamo Bay for Hadi hearing. 

I flew from Andrews Air Force base to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on a Delta Airlines 757 chartered by the Department of Defense to ferry over 100 people involved with the Military Commission case against Hadi al Iraqi.

I am with a team of 11 representatives of non-governmental organization fouls (NGOs) who are monitoring these criminal proceedings. 

Today’s business on the ground was primarily getting a security briefing, picking up our Military Commission badges, learning our likely program of courtroom and other activities for the week, dinner at O’Kelly’s Irish pub, and playing Taboo. 

Our first hearings are in the morning. 

Members of the Delta cabin crew joined me for photos at the Guantanamo Bay Air Station. 

A couple of the NGOs took photos at Camp Justice, where we are living in tents for the next several days.