I arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in the dark and am all checked in. I got my ticket and had a chance to read the Andrews Gazette while waiting for the rest of the NGO Observers to arrive.
I’ve introduced myself to the other NGO Observers as they arrived and I’ve handed out the newest version of our Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual. There are seven observers this time, representing law schools, human rights and other non-profit organizations, and the private bar. I look forward to sharing conversations and learning from them this week.
Professor Catherine Lemmer at Andrews Air Force Base 5 December 2015
The issues before the hearing this week are of great interest — classified information, the female guard issue, the CIA interpreter issue, and the continuing conflict-of-interest issues. I was at Guantanamo Bay for the February 2015 9/11 hearings when the CIA interpreter issue stopped the hearings. I am very interested to see how that issue will be advanced. It will also be interesting to see if the recent move by the military to open all combat positions to women will have an impact on the discussion of the female guard issue.
The chatter in the departure lounge is that the week is shaping up to be very productive. It is sure to be an interesting and informative week.
By: Catherine A. Lemmer, 5 December 2015, 9/11 Hearings, Guantanamo Bay
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.
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.
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.
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.
I flew from Indianapolis to Washington DC to a beautiful 30 degrees. My hotel for the night is just across the street from Andrews Air force Base, where I’m to report at 6:45 a.m. tomorrow for my flight to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor the case against al Nashiri, who is charged with being a mastermind of the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 US sailors in 2000.
On this trip, I will be joined by ten other Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Observers, some of whom have already expressed interest in the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, that we at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law have been researching and writing.
Flying to DC
My trip was uneventful, save for the look on all who tried to lift my carry-on luggage containing the Manuals, which at this point are in two Volumes, totaling over 400 pages. More about the Manualslater.
On my flight from Indianapolis there was an ‘interesting’ conversation going on behind me. I was sitting in front of the loudest three on this very small plane. Their conversations spanned from blue-collar job variations by state, Hoover Dam documentaries, Benghazi and then, Guantanamo! I held my breath.
Their biggest and only complaint was that US taxpayer money was paying for top-notch medical care “for those 9-11 prisoners down there in Cuba” while people here cannot afford it.
The pilot came on the intercom, and voices behind me were lowered for the remainder of the flight. I am still a little shocked that three people on that small plane going from Indiana to the East Coast would talk about Guantanamo Bay, on the eve of my first trip to that U.S. detention center on a remote Caribbean Island.
As an NGO observer, I am tasked with evaluating whether the all stakeholders are being afforded the rights and interests to which they are entitled through the Military Commission process. Yes, I will be examining rights of the defendants. Also I will examine rights of victims and their families, rights of the prosecution, rights of the press, and rights and interests of others who have a stake in the proceedings.
To help prepare for this mission, I have familiarized myself with the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, which at this point I find to be of ‘biblical’ importance. As I mentioned, it is now in two Volumes. Volume I is the main body of the Manual, and identifies the international and domestic U.S. law that governs the Military Commissions. It provides a good idea of what a fair proceeding should look like, so that NGO Observers will have a good point of reference. It also contains a number of extensive, comprehensive “checklists” that Observers can use to give an idea of what to look for when they are observing.
Volume II contains the Appendices, which include hard copies of many important legal documents, such as parts of the Military Commission Act, Rules of Procedure, and International Documents, including parts of the Geneva Conventions.
Both Volumes have been instrumental in helping me prepare for my role as an observer. I have done background readings on blogs from other participants who have attended the hearings, as well as from the Military Commission Website and other resources. The Gitmo Observer Blog also contains Briefing Books under Research and Resources, which have been very helpful in orienting myself with the details of the hearings.
March 2 – 6 Hearings
Retired Major General Vaughn Ary
This week, the al Nashiri court dealt with Unlawful Influence (AE 332, Defense Motion to Dismiss for Unlawful Influence and Denial of Due Process for Failure to Provide an Independent Judiciary). See Alleged Unlawful Influence over Guantanamo Bay Judges. It is argued that a high ranking military official, retired Marine Major General Vaughn Ary, engaged in “unlawful influence” over the judges of the Military Commission by ordering them to relocate to Guantanamo Bay to help speed up the proceedings.
The defense argued that no military official should be able to order a Military Commission judge to take such actions, since the judges are supposed to be free from outside influence.
AE 334 – Defense Motion for Appropriate Relief to Allow Mr. AI Nashiri to Groom Prior to Court Sessions and Meetings with his Defense Team.
AE 272D – Government Motion for Reconsideration and Clarification of AE 272C- Ruling- Defense Motion for Appropriate Relief: Inquiry into the Existence of a Conflict of Interest Burdening Counsel’s Representation of the Accused Based on Ongoing Executive Branch Investigations;
AE 331 A – Government Motion To Amend the Docketing Order (February 2015 Hearing) To Allow The Government To Determine The Manner In Which It Presents Its Evidence Relating To The Admissibility Of Government-Noticed Hearsay And Evidence Identified In AE 207;
AE 319I – Defense Motion to Continue the Evidentiary Hearings Related to AE 166 et seq and AE TI 9 Until Preliminary Matters are Resolved;
AE 319J – Defense Motion to Continue Further Hearings on the Government’s Motion to Admit Hearsay Until the Court of Military Commissions Review Renders a Final Judgment on Appeal;
AE 328 – Defense Motion for a Fair Hearing on the Admissibility of Evidence as Noticed in AE 166 and AE 166A; 3 (8) AE 319F, Defense Motion to Compel Discovery Related to AE166/166A/166B and Seeking Further Appropriate Relief;
AE 319G – Defense Motion to Compel Witnesses to Testify at the Hearing on AE166/166A/166B/319;
AE 256D, Defense Motion to Strike AE 256C: Government Notice of Bill of Particulars (Defining Civilian Population as Used in Aggravating Factor #5);
AE 257D, Defense Motion to Strike AE 257C: Government Notice of Bill of Particulars (Defining Civilian Population as Used in Aggravating Factor #5).
Tomorrow (Sunday), we are scheduled to leave for Guantanamo from Andrews. I plan to post again once I cross the street and enter the base.
I look forward to meeting the other NGO observers.
Aside from the hearings, all that is ringing in my head is ‘banana rats’ – these animals that are supposedly running around pretty freely on Guantanamo Bay. They say that they have to keep the temperature in our GTMO tents very low to keep these rats out at night.
Also, I hear there is a Jamaican shack with the best food on the GTMO base!
Seriously, I am very keen on furthering the goals of the Indiana University Military Commission Observation Project, which include to attend, observe, analyze, critique and report on the Military Commissions. This is a very important project that I believe serves all stakeholders in the Military Commission process.
Avril Rua Pitt, Across the Street From the Andrews Air Force Base Entrance, 28 February 2015
Earlier today the prosecutor provided the updated 9/11 court filings on cds. They also provided two dvd/cd drives for those NGO Observers whose laptops no longer have dvd/cd drives! Technology sure has a way of complicating things on days.
(Catherine Lemmer, Guantanamo Bay, 9/11 hearings, February 9-13, 2015)
The sun is on the horizon and the departure lounge at Andrews Air Force Base has started to fill up. The wall outlets are in demand; and the wifi is slowing down.
The nine NGO Observers are all here as we are the first to check-in. I have already distributed copies of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual — everyone is most appreciative! One NGO Observer had already downloaded it from the link I sent in yesterday’s introductory email.
As soon as I finish this post I am off to continue conversation with some of the defense lawyers and members of the media.
(Catherine Lemmer, 9/11 Hearings, Guantanamo Bay, February 9-13, 2015)
I am scheduled to leave for Guantanamo Bay on February 7 to observe 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 toattend, 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.
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)
I thought I would comment on how I used the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual throughout my week at GTMO. Our group was very lucky in that we had more open sessions than other groups have seen in the past. The Manual came in particularly handy when we met with counsel, when I spoke with people outside of the courtroom, educating observers in the gallery, and also while observing the hearings.
Sit-down with Colonel Jasper
Colonel Jasper is integral to the defense of the detainees. He is a Marine Judge Advocate and gladly spent an hour speaking to our small group. I wasn’t quite sure what questions to ask him, so I consulted the sections of the manual dealing with “Right to effective Assistance of Counsel”, “Right to Communicate with Counsel of His Own Choosing”, and “Right to Attorney Client Privilege”. These sections helped me to ascertain what questions to ask someone in his position. I can definitely see that he is an effective counsel. He believes very strongly in the rights of his client (Hadi al Iraqi) and was incredibly passionate in his conversation with us.
Several of my questions for him came from the manual, which one could not readily ascertain just from observation of the proceedings alone. According to Colonel Jasper, the Government is running all of the proceedings and his client is not getting a fair shake. The prosecution has more resources, he only has four days each month with his client to communicate (and this is when he travels into GTMO), the judge is biased, etc. He does not have the opportunity to really consult with his client in confidence, claiming the government observes, but he does not know to what extent.
I did ask him what his level of security clearance is, to confirm that it is the same as that of the prosecution. To me, it still does not make sense that defense counsel cannot see the same documents as the prosecution. In my legal practice, we often encounter documents subject to confidentiality orders that only our counsel can see. They can then advise us on strategy, but not on the contents of the documents. I would think that the defense counsel would at least be afforded this, but apparently everything is on a “need-to-know” basis for everyone involved.
Use in the Gallery
I let several observers flip through the manual who were not with our NGO party during the hearings. Unfortunately, the size of it was a bit daunting to some and they looked at the first few pages before just handing it back to me. It was more effective for me to summarize the purpose of the Manual and that I was using it as a guide for my observations. I took lots of notes in it and it was also integral in keeping me awake and paying attention. Sometimes the content of the hearings can get a little dry and it gets a bit difficult to not let the mind wander. It’s also helpful to go back through now that I’m home and I can flip back through it for my notes.
Conversations with my Fellow NGOs
Discussing issues prior to the first hearing of the trip on the first day in the NGO Lounge.
The manual also served as a good conversation topic with my fellow NGOs. It was a fabulous ice-breaker at Andrews when I handed it out and then we could discuss the contents of it throughout the trip. One example of the topics that came up was that the majority of the questions seemed more biased in favor of the detainees and the defense when we are supposed to be impartial observers.
Suggestions were made to pare down the size of the manual, focus more on the questions of law that continually come up among the current proceedings, and provide a shorter version of the manual that refers to the longer version for more detail.
Saturday, February 7, will find me again in the departure lounge at Andrews Air Force Base awaiting my departure to Guantanamo Bay to observe the 9/11 hearings scheduled to take place the week of February 9. The military commission made the 6-page amended docket available on January 26, 2015. The docket lists over 30 motions; and notes that counsel should be prepared to argue any other motion for which the briefing schedule has concluded.
In an effort to prepare for the upcoming hearings, I went to the military commission website to review the relevant documents. Whenever I go to the case site I am reminded of the overwhelming complexity of these hearings. Here are just a few numbers I noted:
2959 documents listed on the docket (269 webpages)
55 documents filed in January 2015
32 documents filed by the defense teams
4 documents files by the prosecution
19 documents filed by the commission
Of the 55 documents filed in January 2015, three are available for public review. One of these three is the amended docket.
Transparency is one key to making sure there are fair and open trials afforded to the defendants held at Guantanamo Bay. The inability to review court filings casts an interesting shadow on the goal of transparency. Other key elements of fair and open trials are detailed in the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual that I will be taking and distributing to NGO Observers and other interested persons next week.
(Catherine Lemmer, 9/11 Hearings GTMO, February 2015)
NGO Observers with General Martins. From left: Abburi Harshavardhan (Univ. of Toledo law student), Robert Kerrigan (Human Rights First), Gina Moon (American Bar Assoc.), Emily Finsterwald (U. of New Mexico law student), Sean Murphy (Duke Univ. law student), Adam Adler (Yale law student/Nat’l Institute for Military Justice), General Mark Martins, Anna Kent (Georgetown Univ. law student), Eva Nudd (NYC Bar Assoc.), Charles Gillig (Pacific Council on Int’l Policy), Justin McCarthy (Judicial Watch), Hattie Harman (Indiana Univ. Law School MCOP), Brendan Kelly (Nat’l District Attorneys Assoc.), Ghalib Mahmoud (Seton Hall law student)
As part of a group of non-governmental organization (NGO) observers from across the United States, I spent the past five days, November 16-20, at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO). My mission as an NGO observer was to attend, observe, analyze, critique, and report on the week’s pretrial proceedings in the government’s case against Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi. Hadi is accused of several crimes arising out of his alleged role as an al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan during the post-9/11 period. I returned home late last night (Thursday, Nov. 20) to Indianapolis via Andrews Air Force Base.
I cannot say enough about the wonderful reception the NGOs received from everyone we came into contact with at GTMO. All of them — including General Mark Martins and his staff, Hadi al-Iraqi’s defense team, our NGO escorts Mark Gordon and Darryl Roberson, the numerous members of the JTF Public Affairs Office, and many more — were exceptionally gracious and accommodating of our questions and requests to see and learn as much as possible about GTMO and the Commissions during our trip. (more…)