Air Force One

al Nashiri

Going to Guantanamo to Monitor War Crimes Hearings

The sun rises this morning at Andrews Air Force Base as we gather to fly to Guantanamo Bay.

I’m at Andrews Air Force Base again, at sunrise, heading for Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. This time I’m scheduled to attend hearings in the US military commission case against al Nashiri, who it is alleged to have masterminded the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, killing 17 US sailors. I’m to monitor the proceedings from an international law perspective.

The Hearings

al Nashiri has not had a hearing in 18 months. The court sessions were stayed for this period, during which time conflict and controversy has not ceased. 

The 3 days of hearings this week, if they go forward, may cover dozens of substantive issues the military judge listed on a scheduling order filed in August. It is not clear how much can be accomplished in 3 days. History has shown that during hearing weeks, often there is very little court time. Issues have often arisen, detailing hearings. 

al Nashiri

Some pre-trial issues in the pasta have related to his treatment while in CIA black sites beginning in 2002 for 4 years, where the Senate Torture Report and other sources (including al Nashiri himself) have identified the following practices against al Nashiri – waterboarding (admitted by the government), mock executions, stress positions, and threats of sexual violence against his mother.

Another issue is the length of time between 2002 when he was arrested and now, 14 years later, without his trial beginning. Numerous other issues, some pending before or decided by the military commission or by other courts, appear to stand in the way of a firm trial date in the foreseeable future. 

Human Rights Observers on this Trip

Today 9 non-governmental Organization representatives are set to travel to Guantánamo, to monitor this weeks hearings. I am representing the US Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP) which is part of the Program in International Human Rights Law of the Indiana University McKinney school of Law. We have been sending IU McKinney faculty, staff, students, and graduates to Guantánamo Bay to monitor hearings in these poor crimes trials.

Our Indiana mission includes to attend, observe, analyze, critique and report on these proceedings. We hope to promote transparency, in line with the Pentagon’s stated goal of transparency for these proceedings.

We also seek to shed light on the internationally recognized human rights that should be afforded to all stakeholders in these proceedings. Stakeholders include the defendants, who have rights and interests. Stakeholders also include the prosecution, victims and victims’ families, the media, the monitors, the military charged with operating the detention center, and many other individuals and groups.

We are producing the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, which explores the full range of Guantanamo stakeholders’ rights and interests. 

More blog posts will be posted as we continue to monitor the hearings this week