Yesterday, Monday (March 2) was a very interesting day at the court dealing with Unlawful Influence and hearsay evidence in the al Nashiri case against the alleged mastermind of the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing in Yemen. Judge Spath ruled that a pentagon official (General Ary, retired) had exercised the Unlawful Influence over the case, and disqualified Ary from acting as “Convening Authority”, who is the person who organizes resources for the Military Commission case. The USS Cole case no longer has a Convening Authority, and Judge Spath declared that there would be no further evidentiary hearings this week and that court will reconvene in first week of April 2015.
End of March USS Cole Session
Judge Spath addressed the next set of hearings, which happen to be scheduled to fall on the Easter holidays (first week of April). This was initially scheduled to be for two weeks but will be a one-week hearing after the Unlawful Influence “debacle”. The judge stated that in order to show that there was no pressure on him, he would truncate this April session. There is a possibility that travel to Guantanamo may be delayed to allow people to celebrate Easter, with the hearings possibly beginning on Monday or Tuesday, and extend into Saturday.
Al Nashiri’s “grooming”
There were several motions heard today, and I mention them in a separate post. I will discuss one here, related to the defendant’s “grooming”.
Mr. Rick Kammen, who is al Nashiri’s “Learned Counsel”, brought to the attention of the court the issue of al Nashiri’s grooming. Mr. Kammen said the issue had still not been resolved and within the last 10 days, the policy had changed three times.
The prosecution said that the Joint Task Force – Guantanamo Bay (JTF-GTMO), which is responsible for the detention facilities, has endeavored to amend their Standard Operating Procedures to address this and the accused will have access to grooming before court and attorney-client meetings.
The judge added (emphasizing that this was not a ruling) that he expects that no prisoners will be in shackles in court if they don’t have to be, or in prison uniform before the members of the court, regardless of who the accused is.
It is not clear what falls into the category of “grooming”. It seems to deal with issues such as what clothes al Nashiri is able to wear to court, access to bathing facilities, haircuts, and the like. And, shackles in court also was mentioned in the context of this grooming discussion. I find myself wondering what exactly what “grooming” involves.
Whereas I am certain they must have very stringent rules on the Base, grooming to me seems a basic right, entrenched in the right to humane treatment as espoused in domestic and international law. The Guantanamo Fair Trial Manual considers the right to humane treatment and humane conditions of detention on page 114.
Furthermore, grooming ties in with the right to be presumed innocent, which is also covered in the Guantanamo Fair Trial Manual. The defendant’s physical appearance in the courtroom may affect the impressions of the jury, the press, the NGO Observers, the victims and their families, and others who may see the defendant. If he is dressed in “prison clothes”, appears to be unclean or unkempt, or is shackled at his hands and feet, an impression might be formed that is different than if he appeared clean and tidy wearing a 3-piece business suit.
After hearings – The Beach & a Jamaican Dinner
The NGO Observers were taken on a short tour of several beaches on the island by a logistics specialist, Petty Officer Second Class Archie, and then had dinner at the Jerk House. I had authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken served by a Jamaican (I think), with Jamaican reggae music playing in the background. The only thing that could have made this better is if I had saved room for dessert.
Meeting with the Prosecution; Departure for GTMO
Tomorrow (Wednesday, March 4) we will meet with the prosecution team at 2:00 p.m. and the defense team at 4:30 p.m.
We will depart Guantanamo Bay for Andrews Air Force Base at 10 a.m. Thursday.
It certainly feels like we have been here longer than three days.
The next blog will be list more motions from today, and the blog after that will deal with the life of an NGO Observer at GTMO’s Camp Justice.
(Avril Rua Pitt, NGO Observer Lounge, Camp Justice, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Wednesday, 4 March 2015)