Prosecution

Guantanamo USS Cole Case Day 2 — Hearings To Resume April

USS Cole on 1st deployment after 2000 suicide bomb killed 17 US sailors and wounded dozens more

USS Cole on 1st deployment after 2000 suicide bomb killed 17 US sailors and wounded dozens more

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.

Sunset at Girls Cout Beach,  Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Sunset at Girls Cout Beach, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

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)

 

Stakeholder Rights – The Prosecution

I am scheduled to leave for Guantanamo Bay on February 7 to obusbaseserve the Guantanamo Bay military commission pre-trial proceedings in the case against the five 9/11 defendants. The flight is a little longer than necessary because the plane is prohibited from crossing Cuban air space. In addition to the NGO Observers, the plane to Guantanamo Bay will carry many of the other players, including the defense teams, prosecutors, media, and victim family members.

As an NGO Observer, it is my role to attend, observe, analyze, critique, and report back on the Guantanamo Bay proceedings to help ensure that the proceedings are fair and transparent for all of the stakeholders. The Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual sets out the rights and interests of the many stakeholders: the defendants, prosecution, victims and their families, press, witnesses, Joint-Task Force-GTMO, U.S. citizens, international community, and NGO observers.

general martins
Brigadier General Mark Martins (Harvard University)

Since my December 2014 Guantanamo Bay mission I have given a good deal of thought to the rights of one stakeholder group in particular: the prosecution. I met Brigadier General Martins, the chief prosecutor, and some members of his team in December during the NGO observer briefing. During the briefing he was asked the “How did you get here question?” In his response he described his past military service, conversations with family, and his legal education and training.

At the conclusion of our meeting, I thanked him for taking on the role of chief prosecutor. Many might wonder why. The short answer is that the prosecutor represents the rights and interests of society as a whole. The guarantee of a fair and transparent trial is as dependent on the prosecution upholding its duty to all of the stakeholders as it is on the defense teams zealously working on behalf of their clients and the judges engaging in thoughtful and insightful legal analysis when rendering rulings.

Standard 1.1 of the National Prosecution Standards of the National District Attorney’s Association states that “the primary responsibility of a prosecutor is to seek justice, which can only be achieved by the representation and presentation of the truth.” Standard 3-1.2(c) of the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice further notes that it is the duty of the prosecutor to “seek justice, not merely to convict.”  10 USC §949(b) (2014) prohibits the coercion or influence of military commission prosecutors. As a stakeholder entitled to a fair trial the prosecution in fulfilling its duty to seek justice has the right to operate with sufficient resources, without judicial prejudice, and free from outside influence.

The duty to seek justice through the representation and presentation of the truth is not necessarily inconsistent with a military commission proceeding. General Martins has indicated that the prosecution is bringing only those charges it believes it can prove; and that no classified information will be used as evidence as it is important for all the stakeholders to be able to evaluate the merits of the evidence. In short, he has advocated for justice with an open and transparent proceeding. However, General Martins and his team are in the challenging position of bearing the burden of illegal and unethical actions by governmental units over which he has no authority (e.g., the FBI and CIA). It may not be possible to counter the taint of these actions on the military commission proceedings. It remains to be seen how he and his team will balance the consequences of these actions while upholding the duty to seek justice.

He is an equally delicate balance with respect to the families of the victims. General Martins often speaks of justice for the victims. The voice of the victims and their families is a strong and compelling voice and the jury (panel) when finally selected and sitting will undoubtedly empathize with it.  As the proceedings progress, those interested in a fair and open process will need to be attentive to ensure that the prosecution serves justice by remaining neutral to and independent of each individual stakeholder group.

(Catherine Lemmer, 9/11 Hearings, Guantanamo Bay, February 2015)

Last Hearing Option Cancelled – Listening to Both Sides: First Up the Prosecution

The NGO observers had a sliver of hope that we would see actual court proceedings when we learned on Sunday that Walter Ruiz, attorney for Mustafa al Hawsawi one of  9-11 detainees, had filed a motion for a hearing to obtain medical care for his client. The motion alleged that Mr. al Hawsawi was thrown to the ground and shackled on December 7 due to a misunderstanding as to whether he was to return to his cell or to the recreation area. However the Judge (Army Col. James L. Pohl) denied the request. The next hearings for the 9-11 detainees are docketed for February 9.

Given the lack of court proceedings, the NGO observers pushed for meetings with the defense and prosecution teams. The meeting were scheduled around the various 802 conferences and client meetings.

BG_Mark_Martins

Brigadier General Mark S. Martins

We met first with Brigadier General Mark S. Martins, the chief prosecutor, and three members of his team. Prior to the meeting we were provided with his 13 December 2014 prepared remarks. The prepared remarks addressed the release of the Torture Report. It was Brigadier General Martins’ opinion that the Torture Report will not disrupt or derail the Military Commission process. Rather, the release of previously classified information will speed discovery for the defense. He reiterated in his prepared remarks that the prosecution will not introduce as evidence statements obtained through torture.

Brigadier General Martins began the session by introducing his staff and referring us to his prepared comments. He noted that he would not discuss the female guard issue nor the FBI conflict-of-interest issue; the latter because he had walled himself off from this issue. He then went on to answer our questions and provide information.

As in his prepared remarks, Brigadier General Martins discussed the prosecutions’s intent not to use evidence obtained through torture. He noted that it is imperative that the people see the government’s case. This is not possible if the prosecution uses classified information. Ironically, his intent doesn’t seem to be shared by some other powers in the government — for example, those entities fighting the release of the remaining torture materials. (more…)

Gitmo NGO Observers With Chief Prosecutor General Mark Martins

Chief Prosecutor Gerneral Mark Martins and NGO Observers - GTMO - 16 June 2014

Left to right: Professor Andrew Clapham, Mr. Jason Aldrich (Judicial Watch), Mr. Mark Sorsaia, Professor George Edwards (Founder, The Gitmo Observer), Brigadier General Mark Martins (Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor), Ms. Kate Rocco (Cravath, Swaine & Moore), Mr. Evan Matheney, Lt. Col. Dru Brenner-Beck (Ret.), Dr. Jerry Green.

Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor Brigadier General Mark Martins met with 8 NGO Observers who traveled to Guantanamo Bay for hearings in the 9-11 case and for the arraignment in the case against Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi. These proceedings occurred at Gitmo during the week of 16 – 20 June 2014. At the meeting with the NGOs, General Martins discussed a wide range of issues related to the Military Commissions, including the range of charges brought against various accused, the suitability of these cases being tried at Guantanamo Bay (more…)