On 01 June 2023, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (“BHRC”) launched its latest Guantanamo Military Commissions Trial Observation Report
with a virtual panel event. Chaired by Stephen Cragg KC
, Chair of BHRC, this event brought together an expert panel which consisted of J Wells Dixon
, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights focussing on unlawful detentions at Guantánamo Bay; Alka Pradhan
, Human Rights Counsel, Guantánamo Bay Military Commissions; Carol Rosenberg
, Guantánamo Bay Correspondent, The New York Times; Anthony Natale
, lead counsel for the defence in Abdul Rahim Al Nashiri; Jodie Blackstock
, Barrister at Garden Court Chambers and Treasurer at BHRC, trial observer in the Nashiri case ; and Amanda Weston KC
, Barrister at Garden Court Chambers, BHRC’s trial observer in the 9/11 case.
The panel began with Carol Rosenberg providing an overview of how the Guantánamo Military Commissions developed, what the current status of detainees at Guantánamo is, and how her own reporting on Guantánamo developed.
The discussion then focused on BHRC’s trial observation work at Guantánamo. Jodie Blackstock and Amanda Weston KC focused on issues including the prohibition of the use of evidence obtained and tainted by torture, the use of hearsay evidence, and fair trial rights, based on their observations. In the next part of the discussion, J Wells Dixon, Alka Pradhan and Anthony Natale answered questions including:
• Is there any possibility of a fair process in the Military Commissions?
• What impact has the availability of the death sentence had on the defence’s tactical approach?
• What impact has litigation outside of the Military Commissions and the publication of reports (such as the CIA torture report) had on the process inside the Commission?
• How have medical issues (such as access to doctors and psychologists) impacted the conditions of detention and the proceedings?
• What are some of the advantages and shortcomings of having security cleared defence advocates? For example, in terms of access to classified evidence, security processes during hearings and open justice?
• If you think there is no possibility of a fair trial in the Military Commissions, do you risk legitimising it by continuing to act?