Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions Trial Observations
Further to a highly welcomed decision by the US to approve BHRC as one of only two non-US NGOs with International Observer status, BHRC has for many years kept a watching brief on the use of the detention facility at the United States Naval Base, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and procedural developments in the Military Commissions established under the Military Commissions Act 2009. BHRC has expressed its concerns on the continued use of the detention facility together with broader issues arising out of the ‘War on Terror’, including extraordinary rendition and torture.
Jacob Bindman and Amanda Weston QC (both barristers at Garden Court Chambers in London and Members of the BHRC Executive Committee in 2020-21) visited the Base between 9 – 22 February 2020 in order to observe the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (Ammar Al Baluchi), Walid Bin Attash and Mustafa Al Hawsawi. Jodie Blackstock, BHRC Treasurer and Member of the Executive Committee, conducted a further trial observation in February 2023, authoring a second BHRC Guantanamo Military Commissions Trial Observation Report on 01 June 2023.
On 18th August 2023 the Military Commission in the case of United States of America v Al-Nashiri gave a ruling on a request for the suppression (or exclusion) of statements made by Mr Al-Nashiri to US Government officials in January 2007 after he was officially returned to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility following four years in black sites where he was subjected to the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques programme. In a scathing and significant judgment, the Military Judge concluded that those statement ought to be suppressed as they were derived from the previous torture and psychological abuse which Mr Al-Nashiri was subjected to. The US Government has appealed to the Court of Military Commission Review.
Following BHRC’s second Guantanamo Military Commissions Trial Observation Report released in June 2023, BHRC has on 26th September 2023 submitted an amicus brief to the Court, written by barristers Stephen Cragg KC (Chair of BHRC) and Jodie Blackstock (BHRC Executive Committee), highlighting that international law requires the exclusion of evidence obtained as a result of torture and highlights caselaw and UN conventions, general comments and guidance on the rights of detainees in the context of interrogation following torture.