Ft. Meade

Hearings Cancelled this Week

January 26 & 27 Guantanamo Hearings Cancelled

I am a first year law student at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and I was set to travel to Ft. Meade Maryland this week to observe hearings via lifestream from Guantanamo Bay. The hearings scheduled for this week were for Hadi al Iraqi, who is alleged to, among other charges, have been involved in a series of attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan around 2003 and 2004. The hearing postponement appears to have resulted from a motion for continuance filed by the defense. The defense filed two motions for continuance in January. Although neither the motions for continuance nor the responses to those motions have been made public, I suspect they are related to the hearings being cancelled this week. I feel a little disappointed that this week’s hearings were cancelled, although I must admit I was concerned that bad weather could cause problems with travel from Indianapolis to Ft. Meade.

I review the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trail Manuals in preparation for my observer mission.

I review the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trail Manuals in preparation for my observer mission.

A Rare Opportunity

Not many people have the opportunity to view the hearings of an alleged war criminal. Although the hearing for this week was cancelled, I hope that I will be able to attend one of the other hearings in the future. I understand that delays and postponements are inevitable, but hopefully these will not affect my future travel plans.

Eichmann Trial

A few years ago I read a book by Hannah Arendt entitled Eichmann in Jerusalem, in which Arendt describes the challenges associated with reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann who was tried for having a major role in the atrocities of the Holocaust. One of the specific challenges Arendt noted is a problem associated with holding a trial for someone who is generally believed to be guilty from the start. She questioned whether such a trial trial can have legitimacy, or if it is more of a show. As I go into this process, this issue does not concern me. I believe it is important to have a trial, especially in these instances. One concern is that most people likely believe that those held in Guantanamo Bay are guilty, based solely on the fact that they are being held there. Holding a trial is an essential part of ensuring that all stakeholders are treated fairly. My role as an observer is an essential part of this process. I take this role very seriously and will always strive to remain objective when reporting on the procedural process.

Final Thoughts

I remain optimistic about my observer mission, despite the first hearing I was set to view being cancelled. As I continue the semester I hope I can find time to attend another hearing, and ultimately hope to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to see a hearing in person.

Indiana law students and faculty at Ft. Meade’s Guantanamo hearings

Ft. Meade # 1 of 4

Right to left — Mr. Tex Boonjue, Ms. Hee Jong Choi, and me. We’re standing in front of the Post Theater at Ft. Meade.

I was at Ft. Meade, Maryland today to monitor hearings in the Guantanamo Bay Military Commission case against an alleged high-ranking al Qaeda member, Hadi al Iraqi. Hadi faces war crimes charges in the court, located in a remote area of Cuba. The U.S. military broadcasts the hearings live to a Ft. Meade base movie theater (the Post Theater) via a secure video-link.

Indiana students at Ft. Meade

I was joined by two Indiana University McKinney School of Law students, both of whom have strong interests in human rights and international criminal law. They are both representatives of Indiana’s Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP).

Ms. Hee Jong Choi is a rising third year student who is an intern in Indiana’s Program in International Human Rights Law. She has been working on North Korean human rights issues, while she was based in South Korea for the first half of the summer, and while based in Washington, DC at an NGO (HRNK – The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea) for the second half of the summer.

Mr. Tex Boonjue is a rising 2nd year Indiana student, who is working for the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) at the Washington, DC Naval Yard.

Fort Meade's Post Theater is screening Guantanamo Bay war crimes hearings during the day, and San Andreas in the evenings.

Fort Meade’s Post Theater is screening Guantanamo Bay war crimes hearings during the day, and San Andreas in the evenings.

Defendant’s opportunity to speak today – Conflict of interest

Today’s hearings were notable, in that the defendant had an opportunity to speak more than defendants typically speak at military commission hearings. Typically, at the beginning of a hearing week, the military judge will ask the defendant whether the defendant understands his rights. The judge lists our numerous rights, and the defendant is given a chance to answer as to his understanding of those rights. Generally, after that, the lawyers do the rest of the talking, along with the judge.

Today, an issue was presented regarding the possibility that the lawyer who represented Hadi for a year may have a conflict of interest that could have a negative impact on Hadi. The judge asked Hadi series of questions, in open court on the record, and Hadi replied. Hadi and the judge entered into a discussion about these issues.

Hearings suspended, again

Ultimately, due to questions concerning the possible conflict, the judge suspended the hearings, indefinitely.

The hearings for July 2015 had been scheduled for two weeks, beginning Monday, 20 July. The night before, this conflict issue was raised in special conference, and the judge postponed the hearings until today, Wednesday the 22nd. Today, we had about 3 hours of court time, including the time that the defendant and the judge conversed, and including pauses and a long break.

The two weeks of hearings could be over as of lunch time today.

In the meantime, many dozens of people associated with the hearings boarded a plane this past Sunday at Andrews Air Force Base, bound for 2 weeks at Guantanamo Bay. The plane may be forced to return to Andrews more than a week early, with only 3 hours of court.

At the Ft. Meade Commissary today

At the Ft. Meade Commissary today

Who else was at Ft. Meade today?

Also in the Post Theater observing today’s hearings were 7 law student interns from the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of the Military Commissions, along with one of their supervisors, Major Chris Hartley (Army JAG, International Law Advisor). Two law student interns from the Human Rights First National Security section were present, as was another gentleman who did not identify himself. A DoD contractor was there to help ensure that no one brought cell phones into the Theater. And a technician and another administrator popped in from time to time to check up on things.

It was an early lunch day at Ft. Meade.

Greg Loyd, our Indiana McKinney representative who is in Guantanamo Bay this week, reported that there is plenty to keep him and observers busy down there, even with the hearings being suspended. He, and the rest of us, are spending time working on the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual.

George Edwards – Ft. Meade, Maryland

A Student’s Perspective on the USS Cole Trial- Kristi McMains- May 28, 2014 (Part 2)

Al Nashiri hearing – Thursday, 28 May 2014

There was a lot of discussion in today’s hearing of the report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s (SSCI) about the entire Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program. James Zender’s blog entry covered a lot of the substantive legal issues, so I will just over some of the moments that were particularly memorable.

New attorney added to Prosecution Team

A new attorney was added to the prosecution, which made the final count 12 attorneys for the prosecution and 5 (more…)