Andrews Air Force Base

Will I Go To Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Tomorrow?

Professor Edwards (right) with one of his Indiana law students (Ms. Sheila Willard) at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (file photo)

It’s Sunday morning, and I am scheduled to fly to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, tomorrow morning, Monday, 19 August 2019.

But, my years of traveling to Guantanamo have taught me that I could arrive at Joint Base Andrews (Andrews Air Force Base) tomorrow, and the trip could be cancelled. I’m not talking about a cancelled flight because of a plane’s mechanical issue, with everyone waiting for a replacement plane, or a possible weather delay. Instead, the 10 days of U.S. military commissions I am slated to monitor at Guantanamo could be scratched, with there being no need to fly down this week.

In the over 15 year since I first became involved with Guantanamo, I learned to expect the unexpected.

Hadi al Iraqi / Nashwan al Tamir, the alleged 2nd highest al Qaeda member in U.S. custody. Professor Edwards is scheduled to attend his hearings at Guantanamo from 19 – 29 August 2019.

This article describes what is expected to happen during the upcoming week of hearings in the case against a Guantanamo detainee the U.S. government calls Hadi al Iraqi, but who prefers to be called by what he says is his birth name, Nashwan al Tamir.

But first, I’ll explain how I got booked on this flight to Guantanamo.

My Guantanamo mission

I was a professor of law at Indiana University McKinney School of Law when in 2003 a Pentagon officer asked if I would do a project related to over 650 detainees then being held at Guantanamo. My Indiana students and I researched rights afforded to defendants at Nuremberg and Tokyo after World War II, thinking that at a minimum, rights afforded to defendants then should be afforded to any detainees facing trial by military commission at Guantanamo.

After that project ended, my Indiana students (and Stetson law students) and I worked on the cases of Australian David Hicks (whose 2007 proceedings became the first completed U.S. military commission since World War II), and Canadian Omar Khadr (who was 15 when picked up, who was then taken to Guantanamo and charged).

Fast forward, and I founded the Military Commission Observation Project at Indiana, through which we send faculty, staff, graduates and current students to Guantanamo to monitor hearings, exploring rights afforded to all Guantanamo stakeholder groups. Stakeholder groups include defendants, victims and their families, Guantanamo guards, defense and prosecution lawyers, witnesses, media, observers / monitors, and others. (For more information on different categories of Guantanamo stakeholders, see www.GuantanamoBayReader.com).  

Guantanamo Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Observer Challenge Coin — with our Stated Mission —
To Attend, Monitor, Be Seen, Analyze, Critique & Report

Our Project spells out the mission of Guantanamo Observers / Monitors as follows:  To attend, monitor, be seen, analyze, critique and report on Guantanamo proceedings.

For our Guantanamo Bay Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Observer / Monitor Challenge coins, see here.

We disseminate information through our blog at www.GitmoObserver.com.

Hadi / Nashwan Background

Hadi / Nashwan is an alleged high-level member of al Qaeda Iraq who allegedly liaised with the Taliban and perpetrated war crimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2003 – 2004. The government claims that he is the second highest ranking al Qaeda member in U.S. custody.

He is charged with allegedly commanding al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents who attacked U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan after the U.S. and coalition invaded after 9/11.

The specific war crimes charges against him include denying quarter, attacking protected property, using treachery or perfidy, and attempted use of treachery or perfidy. Also, the US alleges that he conspired to commit war crimes. Allegedly, persons under his command planted IEDs that killed coalition soldiers on roads, fired at a U.S. military medical helicopter, and attacked civilians including aid workers.

He was taken into custody in 2006, arrived in Guantanamo in April 2007, and arraigned in June 2014 on war crimes charges that carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

For at least the last two years, he has suffered from degenerative disc disease, for which he has undergone at least 5 surgeries by military doctors at Guantanamo.

This military judge has acknowledged that the medical condition causes pain and extreme discomfort for Hadi / Nashwan, making it difficult for him to sit in a regular chair in the courtroom for extended periods. He has used a special seat in the courtroom, and has been wheeled into the courtroom in a hospital bed. Furthermore, a special cell that can fit a hospital bed has been constructed next to the courtroom, for him to use during court breaks.

His trial was scheduled to begin in February 2020. It is unclear whether it will go forward, given his health, and given that several weeks of hearings in his case were suspended during his defense counsel’s 12-week maternity leave (including cancelled sessions for June and July 2019).

What is expected to happen this week?

This week, the judge will likely deal with any issues related to Hadi’s / Nashwan’s medical condition. It is likely that the defendant will be wheeled into the courtroom on Wednesday morning, 21 August, in either a hospital bed or a modified wheelchair.

Then, the judge is scheduled to listen to defense and prosecution lawyers argue a number of motions, all of which were listed on a docket that circulated a month or two ago. These motions, which are listed below, deal with a range of issues, including defense requests for information about and access to places where Hadi / Nashwan and others were confirmed, and conflicts of interest of war court personnel.

Motions on the docket are:

  • Defense Motion to Compel Discovery of Information Related to and Access to Buildings in which the Accused or any Potential Witnesses Have Been Confined (AE 137);
  • Defense Motion to Compel Defense Examination of Accused’s Conditions of Confinement Onboard Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (AE 139);
  • Defense Motion to Compel Appointment and Funding of Defense Mitigation Specialist (AE 150);
  • Defense Motion to Compel Production of Discovery Relating to Rules of Engagement Requested in Defense 51st Supplemental Request for Discovery (AE 156);  
  • Defense Motion to Dismiss on the Basis that the Convening Authority has a Personal Interest in the Outcome of the Military Commission (AE 157);
  • Defense Motion to Dismiss because a Military Judge and Law Clerk Sought Employment with the DOD and DOJ (AE 150);  
  • Defense Motion to Compel Discovery of Information Related to Public Statements Made by RDML Ring Concerning Conditions of Confinement (AE 150); and,
  • Defense Motion for Judge Libretto to Disqualify Himself under R.M.C. 902 (AE 150).

Conclusion – What Will Happen This Week?

This coming week at Guantanamo, like all weeks at Guantanamo, is unpredictable.

We will need to wait to see how matters unfold this week.

Stay tuned to www.GitmoObserver.com for updates!

George Edwards

Professor of Law

Direct, Military Commission Observations Project (MCO)

Program in International Human Rights Law

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

www.GitmoObserver.com

www.GuantanamoBayReader.com

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Check your eligibility to travel to Guantanamo Bay to monitor hearings through Indiana’s Guantanamo Project. Click here.

Travel to Guantanamo Bay

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My passport and boarding pass. The boarding pass destination originally said New Orleans, but the gate agent was able to change it to NBW (Guantanamo Bay)

This morning I traveled from Andrews Air Force Base (Andrews) to Camp Justice at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to attend hearings in the 9/11 case. I arrived at the terminal at Andrews at 6 AM this morning. I was bleary eyed, but excited to finally get a chance to travel to Guantanamo. My last three trips were cancelled prior to departure and I told my wife when she dropped me off to make sure her cell phone was on in case we found out that the hearings were cancelled or delayed. I walked in and found five or six people in the waiting room. I was a little nervous that I was in the wrong place (the e-mail we received said to arrive at 6 and no later than 7) and the first thing I did is to confirm with at the check-in desk that this was the the passenger terminal (it was). About 30 minutes later, our escort, Mark, arrived with most of the observers. Everyone else had been dropped off at the visitor center and had been waiting there for Mark to bring them to the terminal.
After introducing myself to the other 10 observers, I distributed copies of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual and I has happy to see most of the observers reading through the Manual over the next hour or so until it was time to check-in. I am proud that the Gitmo Observer and Professor George Edwards created the Manual as I believe it is an excellent resource for anyone who wishes to better understand the Military Commissions and to ascertain whether a fair trial is being had, has been had or can possibly be had under the Military Commision judicial system. In the short-time prior to the flight, several observers mentioned that they skimmed the Manual and believe it will be useful throughout this upcoming week.

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Prior to departure after being dropped off at Andrews Air Force Base. The brown bag is full of copies of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual

My fellow observers are roughly 60% law students and 40% practicing attorneys hailing from everywhere from California to Virginia and, based on our brief conversations thus far, seem an interesting mix of backgrounds including a deputy prosecutor, former members of the military and and a lawyer that works in poverty law. A few folks napped while we waited in the terminal for our 10am departure. My excitement was tempered only slightly by my drowsiness.

 

We checked our bags at around 8:15 AM and other than a prohibition against open-toed or open heeled shoes on the flight, the check-in process was similar to previous flights I have taken. We took a shuttle bus out to the tarmac and boarded our chartered Sun Country Airlines 737-800 plane at roughly 10am and left shortly thereafter. While boarding one of the observers asked whether the first class seats were available. We were told they are reserved for victim’s family members. I later found out that there were 10 victim’s family members that traveled with us to view the hearings.

The flight was pleasant, with a large meal and plenty of space as there were enough empty seats that everyone got their own row (and there were still empty rows left over). I estimate that there were roughly 60 people on flight. I had never heard of Sun Country Airlines, but according to their flight map in my seatback pocket, almost all of their flights depart from Minnesota. I spent most of the roughly three hour flight reviewing the fair trial manual and a summary of the motions for the upcoming week from an e-mail I received a few days ago.

My next post will cover my arrival at Guantanamo Bay, summarize my second day and provide a brief introduction to the AE400 motion scheduled for tomorrow.

 

 

Finally headed to GTMO for Hadi al Iraqi Hearings

A Delta Airlines Airbus A319 (file photo). Definitely a much more comfortable way to fly than by military plane.

A Delta Airlines Airbus A319 (file photo). Definitely a much more comfortable way to fly than by military plane.

After a 24-hour delay, and some slight troubles getting on Joint Andrews Base, I got checked in for my flight out to the Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO) to observe hearings for alleged al-Qaeda commander, Abd al Hadi al Iraqi.

Our group of NGO observers consisted of 8 attorneys and law students from different schools, and 1 non-attorney. We originally had 11 observers but lost 1 due to security clearances issues and 1 due to illness. While waiting, some of the observers had positive things to say about the Guantanamo Fair Trial Manual.

JAB to GTMO

I was fully expecting to fly on a military cargo/passenger plane.

Odd droplet shaped formations dot the ocean near the Cuban island.

Odd droplet shaped formations dot the ocean near the Cuban island.

However, we ended up flying on a chartered Delta Airlines Airbus A319. The flight contained us NGOs and our escorts, the Judge and his staff, the prosecution, a few press members, and Office of Military Commission staff, among others. The flight lasted about 3 hours. It was uneventful, other than seeing weird spots in the ocean. One of observers with a background in oceanography later explained the odd drop shapes in the ocean were algae formed in part by an el Niño weather pattern.

After landing at GTMO we got into a van and drove on to a ferry to make the 30-minute trip from the windward side of the island. It was a very beautiful ride.

Ferries shuttle people across from the airport on the leeward side to the windward side of Guantanamo Bay.

Ferries shuttle people across from the airport on the leeward side to the windward side of Guantanamo Bay.

Our NGO escorts got us settled into our temporary work and living quarters at Camp Justice, the location for the military commissions sitting on a former airfield. The NGO lounge is where various NGOs keep their materials, and is a meeting place for observers to discuss the day’s events. It is located in a room inside a dilapidated airplane hanger/tower building. The NGOs, press, and other personnel staying at GTMO for brief periods stay in the tents. The tents are kept super cold (probably around 55-60 degrees) to keep the local wildlife out. I luckily was given enough of a heads up to bring a sleeping bag, a sweatshirt, long johns, and a winter hat.

One of the many tents of Camp Justice. This particular tents is one of two Male NGO tents. Shower and bathroom facilities are housed in different tents.

One of the many tents of Camp Justice. This particular tent is one of two Male NGO tents. Shower and bathroom facilities are housed in different tents.

Tour of the Expeditionary Legal Complex

The NGO’s and two members of the media were given a tour of the Expeditionary Legal Complex (“ELC”) that was built to try the five 9/11 defendants. It’s a 12-million dollar facility located on Camp Justice, with a courtroom that contains state of the art transportable equipment. Aside from the courtroom, the facility also contains meeting trailers for the prosecution and defense, a Quick Reaction Force room in case something happens, holding cells with arrows on the floor pointing to Mecca, CCTV feeds, and a full body scanner that avoids the need for strip searches.

 Tomorrow’s Hearings

Preparations have begun for tomorrow’s hearings. The prosecution, defense, and judge met in a private session to presumably discuss the issues to be talked about tomorrow on the record. NGOs reviewed the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, and I feel prepared for my mission. I look forward to seeing what happens.

By: Tyler Smith, 3L, Indiana University Robert. H. McKinney School of Law

Guantanamo Bay Flight from Andrews delayed – 24 Hours during Pope’s Visit

The USO in the passenger terminal provided much needed fresh coffee

The USO in the passenger terminal provided much needed fresh coffee

I  checked in early this morning at the Joint Base Andrews (a.k.a. Andrews Air Force Base) Passenger Terminal for my flight to Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba (GTMO) to monitor hearings in the war crimes case against Hadi al Iraqi.

A gentleman announced that for reasons beyond their control, our mission to Guantanamo Bay has been pushed back 24 hours. The 2-hour delay on my flight yesterday from Indianapolis suddenly seemed insignificant.

I heard through the grapevine that the GTMO airfield was jammed with aircraft from an air show, and that this information was notconveyed to the Military Commissions in a timely manner. Also, it is no secret that Pope Francis is in Cuba, and as I mentioned before,there are rumors that he will travel to Guantanamo Bay before he flies to the U.S. later this week.

A fellow observer reads up on the Guantanamo Fair Trial Manual I brought with me, while two others find a place to stay for the night

A fellow observer reads up on the Guantanamo Fair Trial Manual I brought with me, while two others find a place to stay for the night

All the observers were granted TDY (Temporary Duty) orders, which provides us with funds to cover meals and a hotel for the night.

While we waited for a briefing from Brigadier General Mark Martins this morning, observers were able to introduce ourselves to each other, and tell a little bit about what we do and what school or organization we are representing. We have what looks like an interesting mix of observers from around the U.S.

Briefing by Chief Prosecutor Brig. Gen. Martins

Shortly after the delay was announced, our two military commission escorts announced that Brigadier General Mark Martins, who is the U.S. Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor, would conduct his briefing at Andrews instead of waiting until we arrived in GTMO.

Brig. Gen. Martins spent over an hour with the group updating us on the Hadi al Iraqi hearings, and on the other two major pending cases – the case against al Nashari and the case against the 9/11 defendants. A prosecution staff member provided us with copies of his remarks and a DVD containing all the documents available as of yesterday that are also available on the Military Commission website.

Brig. Gen. Martins indicated that he expects to get everything done despite the compressed Hadi al Iraqi schedule. The two issues discussed in the previous blog post will be litigated once the commission has inquired as to whether al Iraqi has restored his current defense counsel to full representational capacity.

Brigadier General Mark Martins was kind enough to pose with me for a photo following his briefing with the observers

Brigadier General Mark Martins was kind enough to pose with me for a photo following his briefing with the observers

The observers asked great questions the answers to which revealed General Martins’ intellect and philosophy on the military commission process. He talked at length about the “narrow and necessary jurisdiction” within our justice and counterterrorism institutions. My intuition tells me that not everyone agrees with the fairly rosy picture of the legal robustness of the commission process that he alluded to.

Despite that, Brig. Gen. Martins was quite welcoming to the observers, indicating that transparency is crucial and that we play a role in holding the commissions accountable. Several times during the hour Brig. Gen. Martins mentioned the intense adversarial nature of the commissions process. Interestingly enough, we never even met or were introduced to any of the defense team by our escorts. I am assuming we will meet them at some point tomorrow.

Revised Hadi Hearing Schedule

The hearings in the Hadi case will presumably begin on Tuesday the 22nd, rather than on Monday the 21st. Already, this week’s hearings were reduced from a full week to 3 days. Now, there may only be two days of hearings before we return from Guantanamo on Wednesday evening.

Each “Memorial Unit” is a cantilevered bench with a lighted reflection pool, and is inscribed with the name of a victim. The Memorial Units are also positioned to distinguish those victims who were in the Pentagon and those who were aboard American Airlines Flight 77.

Each “Memorial Unit” is a cantilevered bench with a lighted reflection pool, and is inscribed with the name of a victim. The Memorial Units are also positioned to distinguish those victims who were in the Pentagon and those who were aboard American Airlines Flight 77.

National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

After the briefing by Brig. Gen. Martins, the observers went their separate ways for the evening. I decided after lunch in D.C. to head to the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial that captures the name, location, and age of each of the 184 victims. Abd al Hadi al Iraqi is not a defendant in the 9/11 case, but a visit to the memorial seemed appropriate given the reason I am in D.C.

By: Tyler Smith, J.D. Candidate, 3L, Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Eve of Departure to GTMO

After a 2 hour delay leaving Indianapolis due to inclement weather and a pilot swap, I made it to Washington D.C shortly before noon. I am currently in a hotel across from the main entrance to Andrews Air Force Base. As tomorrow’s flight is a military one, I expect to hurry up and wait. So I anticipate having some time to meet my fellow observers tomorrow morning.

My flight to Guantanamo Bay – by Greg Loyd

On my way to Guantanamo Bay: a quick meeting with George Edwards

I’m on the left, with Professor George Edwards who founded the Military Commission Observation Project at Indiana. This photo was taken in Washington, DC the day before my departure for Guantanamo.

I’m set this morning to go to Guantanamo Bay to monitor Military Commission hearings. On my plane, which leaves from Andrews Air Force Base, will be the judge, prosecution and defense lawyers, victims’ families, press, court reporters and interpreters, and other hearing observers. For 10 days we will be involved in pre-trial hearing in a case against alleged war criminal al-Hadi al-Iraqi, an alleged high-ranking al Qaeda member.

I appreciate the opportunity to represent the Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP) of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law.

 My Background

I graduated from Indiana’s law school over a decade ago, and I have worked as both a defense attorney and a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney. I have worked with many categories of individuals emotionally vested in cases – criminal defendants scared for their future due to charges against them, detectives who sink their nights and days investigating a case, family members who grieve for a loved one, and fellow attorneys who spend sleepless nights worrying upcoming hearings. I hope this balanced lense will aid me in better understanding each Guantanamo Bay stakeholder’s point of view and lead to reporting that readers find helpful.

 My Role

As an Observer, I will watch, listen, and ask questions about the rights of stakeholders in the al-Hadi al-Iraqi case. Obviously, one such stakeholder is the defendant who has significant rights and interests in the matter. Yet, so too do the families of victims. The press. NGO’s. Yes, even the prosecution. When evaluating the military commissions, it is important to consider not just the rights of any one stakeholder, regardless of who or what this stakeholder is, but rather, the analysis must be global in nature. Given that much has been written about the defendant’s rights, I will try to pay close attention to another stakeholder — the rights of the Guantanamo Bay prosecution — in an effort to contribute to a full discussion.

A helpful starting point is to ensure an understanding of the charges filed against a defendant.

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi

What are “Charges”?

Charges are the formal method that the government uses to accuse an individual (the defendant) with having committed a crime. The charges are not evidence and the filing of a charge does not mean that the defendant is guilty. Rather, it is the Government’s responsibility to prove at trial that the defendant is guilty. The Government filed fives charges against Hadi al-Iraqi.

Charges Against Hadi al Iraqi

Here is a brief explanation of the charges filed against the defendant.

  1. Denying Quarter

In short, the Government alleges that Hadi al Iraqi ordered his combat forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan that when they engaged in combat, they were to take no prisoners, even if the opposing forces attempted to surrender.

  1. Attacking Protected Property

Here, the Government alleges that the defendant attacked a military medical helicopter as it attempted to evacuate a U.S. military member from a battlefield and that the defendant knew the helicopter was a medical helicopter.

  1. Using Treachery or Perfidy

The Government asserts that the defendant detonated explosives in a vehicles that killed and injured German, Canadian, British, and Estonian military personnel.

  1. Attempted Use of Treachery or Perfidy

Hadi al-Iraqi is charged in this count with attempting to detonate explosives in a vehicle to kill or injure U.S. military members.

  1. Conspiracy

The Government contends that the defendant entered into an agreement with Usama bin Laden and others to commit terrorism, denying quarter, and murder (among other acts), and that he took at least one step to accomplish the purpose of the agreement.

Conclusion

I’m looking forward to monitoring the upcoming hearings. In applying my experiences, I hope to share a thoughtful analysis regarding my observations at Guantanamo Bay that contributes to the exploration of the rights of all stakeholders.

By Greg Loyd