GITMO

Preparations to Attend Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri Hearings at Guantanamo Bay, 1 – 7 March 2015

al Nashiri

Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri

I am scheduled to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor the Al Nashiri Hearings at U.S. Military Commissions from 2 – 7 March 2015.  This is the case against a man, al Nashiri, who is charged in these proceedings with having being a masterminded of the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, docked off the coast of Yemen, killing 17 U.S. sailors and wounding dozens more.

At Guantanamo Bay, I will be representing Indiana University McKinney School of Law’s Program in International Human Rights Law, which has received NGO Observer status by the Pentagon. This human rights program created the Military Commission Observation Project, and the Project nominated me for this mission.

Background

I have a Bachelor of Law from Moi University based in Eldoret Kenya (’09). I also hold a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in International Human Rights Law (’11) from IU McKinney, which is how I primarily got involved with the Program in International Human Rights Law.  In 2010, I was an intern in this human rights program, working in Vienna Austria in. As an International Human Rights Law student in Prof. Edwards’s classes, I gained valuable gainful insight into international criminal law, and the Guantanamo Bay case of David Hicks, on which IU McKinney students worked and on which Professor Edwards served as an expert witness.

I am currently studying International Research Ethics, but have not lost my interest in international law.

Experiences

I have had an interest in international law for many years now, but certain events heightened my desire to understand international criminal law and international humanitarian law.

On August 7, 1998, the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya was bombed, killing over two hundred person, wounding countless people, and causing significant property damage. There was a similar terrorist attack in neighboring Tanzania. The blast rocked our notions of the relative peace and security we had experienced as a nation. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility, and terrorism was at doorstep of my East African home.

Al Nashiri was a suspected mastermind of those East African bombings, and one of the suicide bombers, the driver of the truck carrying explosives who attacked the Embassy, was his cousin, Azzam (pg. 152, 9-11 Commission Report). It was purely coincidental that I was approved for the Al Nashiri hearings. Although as a nation we lost family and friends, I naturally was inclined to seeing all those involved pay for their crime. At the same time, reading about the torture that alleged masterminds and perpetrators were subjected to left me conflicted as a human being, and a continued believer in the universality and inalienability of human rights.

With this background and my academic experience in international law, I am eager to attend the hearings and apply what I have learned to assess whether the accused are accorded fair trials, and whether the rights and interests of all other stakeholders are being fully afforded to them.

Reason for Applying to be an Observer

I admired the work of the IU McKinney PIHRL before I even joined McKinney School of Law. In 2009, I was fortunate to meet Prof. Edwards in Eldoret, Kenya, and had a chance to work with interns from PIHRL who did their internships in the legal office where I worked in Kenya just after I completed my law degree. As an affiliate of Professor Edwards’ program, I was very proud when it earned United Nations ECOSOC Special Consultative Status, and very proud when the Pentagon granted the PIHRL NGO Observer Status to the Military Commissions.

Courtroom sketch of al Nashiri by artist Janet Hamlin.

Courtroom sketch of al Nashiri by artist Janet Hamlin.

Al Nashiri

As mentioned, al Nashiri is charged with masterminding an attack on USS Cole in October 2000 and on. He faces charges in perfidy, murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, terrorism, conspiracy, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, and hazarding a vessel.

Personal Thoughts on the Hearings

I look forward to attending the hearings. I am however conflicted. The purpose of allowing observers is to ensure free and fair trials are conducted before the Military Court at Guantanamo, yet the process is riddled with torture and gross human rights abuses. I have received countless of emails from human rights based organizations, to sign petition for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. I cannot say that I have made any active advocacy efforts towards this end. I find it unsettling after claims and evidence of illegal detention and a flagrant violation of rights, there is an interest in the right to a fair trial. At the same time, terrorist continue to launch attacks against innocent human beings. I have witnessed this in Kenya, and continue to witness it with the constant threats from the militant group Al- Shabaab. I desire justice for the victims of terrorism, and respect for human rights for those accused.

Travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

My journey to Guantanamo begins March 1, and will return to the country on March 7. I will be posting my observations on this blog as I continue to prepare, and updating on the hearings on a daily basis. I look forward to meeting other NGO Observers who will be there, attending the hearings and applying the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual to give an objective and personal view of the proceedings.

Avril RuaAvril Rua, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 21 February 2015

How Can the President Close Guantanamo Bay? by Clarence B. Leatherbury

Senate Bill 2410 - Carl Levein - To Authorize Military Activities for 2015On June 24, 2007, while on the Presidential campaign trail, Illinois Senator Barack Obama stated to a crowd in Texas, “We’re going to close Guantanamo. And we’re going to restore habeas corpus.” Now President Barack Obama is trying to honor that promise.

One way President Barack Obama could close Guantanamo Bay is by vetoing the annual defense spending bill. The 113th Congress drafted Senate Bill 2410, known as the “Carl Levin National Defense Authorization Act” for Fiscal Year 2015. The National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision which prohibits the President of the United States from transferring the remaining 149 detainees to the U.S.

The provision reads:

SEC. 1031.LIMITATION ON THE TRANSFER OR RELEASE OF INDIVIDUALS DETAINED AT UNITED STATES NATIONAL STATION, GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA.
(a) In General- Except as provided in subsection (b), none of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act for fiscal year 2015 may be used to transfer, release, or assist in the transfer or release to or within the United States, its territories, or possessions of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any other detainee who–
(1) is not a United States citizen or a member of the Armed Forces of the United States; and
(2) is or was held on or after January 20, 2009, at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by the Department of Defense.
(b) Transfer for Detention and Trial- The Secretary of Defense may transfer a detainee described in subsection (a) to the United States for detention pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40), trial, and incarceration if the Secretary–
(1) determines that the transfer is in the national security interest of the United States;
(2) determines that appropriate actions have been taken, or will be taken, to address any risk to public safety that could arise in connection with detention and trial in the United States; and
(3) notifies the appropriate committees of Congress not later than 30 days before the date of the proposed transfer.

Veto?

If President Barack Obama vetoed the legislation though, Congress could override the veto with a two-thirds vote of both houses, whereupon the legislation would become law. (more…)