One week at Guantánamo Bay, a land filled with stark contrasts

Davis Wright is a recent graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law (JD magna cum laude 2022). During his time in law school, Davis was: Executive Articles Editor for Vol. 50 of the Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law; co-founder and co-president of the Privacy, Security, and Technology Law Society; and participant in the 2021 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. Additionally, he completed a semester-long externship in Norfolk, Virginia, in the legal department of HQ SACT, a leading unit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; his prior post on that NATO experience is here. This month, Davis will begin practicing law as an Associate at Jones Day in Atlanta. He would like to thank Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center for contributing funding to allow him to fly to Washington, D.C., in order to participate as a nongovernmental organization (NGO) observer in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba – an experience that he recounts in this post.

From September 9 to 16, 2022, I was granted the opportunity to be the National Institute of Military Justice NGO Observer at the U.S. Military Commission hearings at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NSGB) in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in the case against the defendant known as Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, although he calls himself Nashwan al-Tamir.

During my time in Guantanamo, I found stark contrasts everywhere: internally, with how I viewed Mr. al-Hadi’s treatment, and externally, with all that I observed on NSGB.

Guantánamo Bay is a beautiful place. Flying into the airstrip of NSGB, you can see the stunning landscape of Cuba, with many mountains jutting out from the island.

After crossing the bay via ferry, surveying the views on water, I arrived at the area of the base that includes Camp Justice, the makeshift complex where the military commissions are held.

After completing check-in, passing through security, and being instructed on what I could and could not do while on base, I was given a tour of the base by my escort.

This was where I noticed the first contrast:

  • Initially, I was shown rocky beaches with clear blue water, breathtaking lookouts with 360-degree views, and lively wildlife that was all around, including iguanas, banana rats, deer, and guinea fowl.
  • But then I also was able to view Camp X-Ray, the hastily thrown together detention facility that housed the first of captives held at Guantánamo Bay in the United States’ war on terror. In this facility, and then in the more permanent Camp Delta afterwards, detainees were (and still are) held without charges, and many allege that they were tortured and abused. X-Ray is now unused and run down, poking out through the overgrown foliage that threatens to swallow it. Nevertheless, it casts a dark shadow and eerie presence over the otherwise idyllic landscape.

The next day, we were shown all that Guantánamo Bay has to offer. There are the aforementioned beaches, a bowling alley, an arcade, an Irish pub, a tiki bar, basketball, racquetball, and pickleball courts, mini-golf, and much more. And I took advantage, by eating, drinking, and enjoying myself on an island that displayed beauty everywhere I looked.

This was the next contrast.

Because while I had just enjoyed what was essentially a day of vacation on a Sunday in Guantánamo Bay, the next morning, behind layers of security, I was observing a U.S. Military Commission hearing for Mr. al-Hadi.

The pre-sentencing hearing that day focused on Mr. al-Hadi’s failing health. Mr. al-Hadi has previously endured 5 spine surgeries, due to a degenerative-spine disease. He needs a sixth. However, an MRI machine is needed to evaluate his spine, and the only one to which he has access at Guantánamo Bay has been broken since November 2021. Although the previous MRI machine had been provided via an awarded contract to a private company, the government failed to contract for maintenance, and, as a result, the machine demagnetized due to a catastrophic loss of helium. Mr. al-Hadi also needs a dexa scan, and the base does not have this capability.

The government has provided an estimate of December 2022 for the operability of a new MRI machine and download of software to the existing CT scan machine to make a dexa scan possible. However, the previous (and now broken) MRI machine took several years to finally make its way to the base and become operational. Due to this, the defense counsel expressed deep skepticism over whether the government’s timeline was realistic. Counsel asked to take the testimony of the Senior Medical Officer – the equivalent of Mr. al-Hadi’s primary care physician – to inquire into his current health situation. Defense counsel also asked to take the testimony of the chair of the Senior Medical Advising Committee, arguing that this individual likely has information regarding the procurement and administration of the MRI machine.

Who, exactly, is this defendant?

Mr. al-Hadi was captured in Turkey in late 2006 and held at a CIA black site for 5 to 6 months. After this time, he was transferred to the detention facility at NSGB. As described in an article by New York Times reporter Carol Rosenberg, this past June Mr. al-Hadi pleaded guilty to the “war crimes of attacking private property – a U.S. military medevac helicopter that insurgents who answered to him failed to shoot down in Afghanistan in 2003 – and of treachery and conspiracy connected to insurgent bombings that killed at least three allied troops, one each from Canada, Britain and Germany.” Many of his fellow detainees are accused of other war crimes; they include Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who allegedly orchestrated the attacks on the USS Cole, and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is alleged to have been one of the masterminds behind the 9/11 attacks.

This is yet another contrast.

It is hard to feel sympathetic for the detainees, including Mr. al-Hadi, because most have legitimately committed heinous crimes against the United States. Yet – unlike others who have also committed heinous crimes but were convicted in U.S. courts – detainees at Guantánamo Bay were held for lengthy periods of time without charges. Many detainees allege that they were tortured either before coming to or during their time on base. These men are also aging and facing increasing health problems, which the government, to date, has inadequately addressed. It is easy to want to ignore these injustices when faced with the war crimes that were committed by those held in Guantanamo Bay. But as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And although that quote may be cliché, the United States (and those keeping it accountable) must fight to the urge to allow the crimes of the accused to determine the quality of the legal process they receive.

After the Monday hearing, Tuesday was a classified session, which NGO observers were prohibited from attending, presumably because the judge granted one or both of the defense counsel’s motions for new testimony. And the Wednesday through Friday hearings were either cancelled or classified as well.

This led to the final contrast that I observed. While I got a few more days of relaxing in the sun on the government’s dime, I was flown down to Guantanamo Bay on a charter flight, housed, and provided an escort all for no cost, it remains to be seen whether Mr. al-Hadi ever gets his MRI and dexa scan from that same government.

Georgia Law Professor Diane Marie Amann to keynote, and alumna Lauren Brown to present, at upcoming European Society of International Law Research Forum in Glasgow, Scotland

The University of Georgia School of Law will be well represented at the annual Research Forum of the European Society of International Law, to be held March 31-April 1, 2022, at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. This year’s host, the Glasgow Centre for International Law & Security, has chosen a timely theme given the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict: “International Law an Global Security: Regulating an Illusion?” Among the many scholars exploring that topic will be:

  • Georgia Law Professor Diane Marie Amann (above left), who is scheduled to deliver the keynote address, entitled No Exit at Nuremberg: The Postwar Order as Stage for 21st-Century Global Insecurity, during the session beginning at 9 a.m. GMT/4 a.m. Eastern on Thursday, March 31. Amann is Regents’ Professor of International Law, Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law, and Faculty Co-Director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center at Georgia Law; served from 2012 to 2021 as International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict; and is a member of the Coordinating Committee of ESIL’s Interest Group on International Criminal Justice. She is writing a book, under contract with Oxford University Press, on lawyers and other women professionals at the first post-World War II international criminal trial, held from 1945 to 1946 in Nuremberg, Germany.
  • Lauren Brown (above right), who earned her Georgia Law J.D. degree magna cum laude and was elected to the Order of the Coif in 2019, will present Keys to the Kingdom: Export Controls and What They Really Mean at 1:30 p.m. GMT/8:30 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday, March 30, as part of a panel entitled “International Economic Law and New Frontiers of Global Security.” Brown, who is an Associate in the International Trade Practice at the Squire Patton Boggs law firm in Washington, D.C., also holds a master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, as well as a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Registration to attend this event, either in-person or online, is free and available here.

International lawyers, including several Georgia Law graduates, to speak Monday on “Careers in International Law”

We at the University of Georgia School of Law Dean Rusk International Law Center are honored to welcome a group of distinguished attorneys, including several of our graduates, for an online discussion of “Careers in International Law” from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. this Monday, November 8.

David Hull (JD’84), who is a Partner at the Van Bael & Bellis law firm in Brussels, Belgium, will moderate a panel featuring:

  • H. Vincent Draa (JD’84), Of Counsel, Kochhar & Co. LLC in Chicago
  • Catherine Gordley, Senior Associate at Van Bael & Bellis
  • David Hegwood (JD’83), Senior Advisor for Global Engagement at the U.S. Agency for International Development, based in Rome, Italy

Together, they’ll lead a conversation on global legal practice in a variety of settings, including private law firms, corporate legal departments, and governmental organizations.

Register here to attend the careers session.

Georgia Law alumna Chanel Chauvet publishes at Opinio Juris on POW remittances, in blog symposium on 2020 GCIII Commentary directed by alumnus Jean-Marie Henckaerts

Pleased to note the publication last Thursday by a recent graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law, as part of an ongoing joint symposium sponsored by Opinio Juris and by the Humanitarian Law & Policy Blog of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Author of the contribution entitled “Prisoners of War Remittances – Financial Challenges of Sanctions and Conversion Rates” is Chanel Chauvet, who earned her J.D. degree from Georgia Law in 2018, and also, just last year, her LL.M. degree cum laude in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland.

Applying a case study of relations between Iran and the United States, Chauvet’s post details the obstacles faced by a prisoner of war, or POW, in securing remittances – funds that family members send “in an effort to contribute to the POW’s financial welfare” – on account of financial sanctions regimes and currency conversion rates. She concludes with recommendations that would remove remittances from the effects of these regimes, writing:

“The legal landscape governing POW remittances is insufficient, and as such, states should collectively address the obstacles that damage the financial health of POWs by incorporating specific protections for POWs (e.g., a legal exclusion for POW payments and remittances) from the effects of the banking sanctions that are in place in their Power of Origin.”

While a J.D. student, Chauvet served as a Dean Rusk International Law Center Student Ambassador and a research assistant to the Center’s Faculty Co-Directors, Professors Harlan Cohen and Diane Marie Amann. She completed the Grotius Centre Summer School on Humanitarian Law at Leiden Law School in the Netherlands, competed on a winning Model African Union team, served as worldwide student president of the International Law Students Association, and was the recipient of the Blacks of the American Society of International Law Annual Meeting Scholarship.

Chauvet is a member of the Bars of the State of Georgia and of the District of Columbia.

At the Geneva Academy, she was elected the Student Council LL.M. Representative and was the student commencement speaker. She served as a Legal Intern in the International Law & Policy Department at the ICRC, and also made presentations at meetings of the UN Human Rights Council in her capacity as the Permanent Representative in Geneva for the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

Chauvet’s LL.M. thesis, from which the Opinio Juris post draws, was supervised by a Geneva Academy professor who is himself earned his LL.M. at Georgia Law in 1990: Dr. Jean-Marie Henckaerts, Legal Adviser in the ICRC’s Legal Division and a member of our Dean Rusk International Law Center Council.

Chauvet’s post forms part of a symposium of articles analyzing aspects of Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949. Commentary of 2020. Known colloquially as GCIII, that commentary is the third published under Dr. Henckaerts’ directorship. Indeed, we at the Center were honored to host a daylong conference marking the issuance of the initial volume, the Commentary on First Geneva Convention, with papers published in the Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law.

Georgia Law alumna Lauren Brown publishes on “Legal Answer to the China Question” in NATO Legal Gazette

“Partnership, Not Pivot: NATO’s Legal Answer to the China Question” is the title of an article by Georgia Law alumna Lauren Brown, just published at 41 NATO Legal Gazette 27-45 (2020). The essay appears in an issue devoted to the subject of “Legal Aspects of Innovation.”

Brown wrote the article while serving in Spring 2019 as a full-semester NATO Legal Extern in Mons, Belgium, an experience she described in a prior post.

With reference to NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Brown’s Legal Gazette essay asserts:

“[T]he Organization is falling behind in addressing the multipolar reality that has defined the geopolitical landscape since the early twenty-first century. This multipolar world features as primary influencers the United States, the Russian Federation, and the People’s Republic of China. And it requires NATO to undertake innovation in its strategy; in particular, to broaden its partnership initiatives formally to include China.”

The essay proceeds to outline multiple ways by which such a partnership might be forged, and concludes that “NATO’s future relevance is contingent upon its ability to directly and formally engage China in a meaningful cooperative partnership.”

Brown earned her Georgia Law J.D. degree magna cum laude in 2019. Since then, she has practiced as an Associate in the International Trade Practice at the Washington, D.C., office of the global law firm Squire Patton Boggs.

She also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and B.A. in International Studies, with highest distinction, from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Before beginning her legal studies, she had worked as a news analyst in the Washington area. Her activities at law school included: Articles Editor of the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law; Research Assistant to Professor Harlan G. Cohen, our Center’s Faculty Co-Director; and Summer 2017 Global Extern at War Child Holland in Amsterdam.

Brown was Georgia Law’s inaugural NATO Legal Extern, thanks to a partnership between our Center and NATO Allied Command Transformation. That initiative is ongoing, as indicated by 3L Miles Porter’s recent post on his experience at NATO HQ SACT in Norfolk, Virginia.

Former DHS secretary lauds Georgia Law alumnus Chuck Allen on 20-year anniversary as DoD deputy general counsel for international affairs

An alumnus and member of our Dean Rusk International Law Center Council has garnered well-deserved praise from a fellow public servant and longtime colleague.

In “A Tribute to Charles A. Allen,” published Friday at Lawfare, Jeh Johnson, a partner in the Paul Weiss law firm and the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security from 2013 to 2017, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the day that Allen took up the post of Deputy General Counsel (International Affairs) at the U.S. Department of Defense. Johnson wrote:

“To the benefit of us all, he remains in office today, with the vast responsibility of overseeing the legal aspects of the U.S. military’s operations abroad.

“Put simply: Chuck is one of the finest public servants I know. He embodies the best in federal civilian service.”

Johnson, also former general counsel both of the Department of Defense and of the U.S. Air Force, took particular note of Allen’s service, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, “at the legal epicenter of the U.S. military’s armed conflicts against al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Taliban; the Iraq War; the conflicts in Libya and Syria; the maritime disputes with China and Iran; and many other conflicts, treaties and defense issues too numerous to list.”

Allen, Johnson continued, is “an earnest, low-key public official who consistently works long hours, mentors young national security lawyers and grinds out an extraordinary volume of work” – and the recipient of a Presidential Rank Award.

We at the University of Georgia School of Law are proud to call Allen (JD’82) an alumnus, former Research Editor of the Georgia Law Review, and author of two articles published in our Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law: “Civilian Starvation and Relief During Armed Conflict: The Modern Humanitarian Law” (1989) and “Countering Proliferation: WMD on the Move” (2011).

As stated in Allen’s DoD biography, he also earned an undergraduate degree from Stanford and an LL.M. from George Washington University. His service in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps included a stint as Deputy Legal Adviser, National Security Council, and Attorney-Adviser, Office of Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State. In his current position, Allen’s responsibilities include

“legal advice on Department of Defense planning and conduct of military operations in the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq, including the law of armed conflict and war crimes, war powers, coalition relations and assistance, and activities of U.S. forces under international law and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions; arms control negotiations and implementation, non-proliferation, and cooperative threat reduction; status of forces agreements; cooperative research and development programs; international litigation; law of outer space; and multilateral agreements.”

(credit for 2015 International Committee of the Red Cross photo, above, of Charles A. “Chuck” Allen at Minerva–ICRC conference on International Humanitarian Law, held in Jerusalem 15-17 November 2015)

Appointed to state’s Supreme Court: Judge Carla Wong McMillian, alumna of Georgia Law and past contributor to this blog, having posted about her Asian-American heritage

Delighted to announce the appointment to the Supreme Court of Georgia of the Honorable Carla Wong McMillian, who has served as a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals since 2013. She is a distinguished alumna of the University of Georgia School of Law – and also, we’re proud to note, a past contributor to this blog.

She will replace another Georgia Law alum and in turn be replaced by another Georgia Law alum; respectively, just-retired Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham and Superior Court Judge Verda Colvin, who is based in Macon.

Born in Augusta, Georgia, Carla Wong McMillian earned her Georgia Law J.D. degree summa cum laude in 1998. She becomes the first Asian-American woman in the Southeast to be put on her state’s highest court; additionally, she is first Asian Pacific American state appellate judge ever to be appointed in the Southeast, and the first Asian American person to be elected to a statewide office in Georgia. Her professional service includes a term as President-Elect of the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association (GAPABA).

She reflected on these achievements in “My family history & path to the bench,” a 2016 post at this blog, which reprinted an essay she’d written for the Georgia Asian American Times. Available in full here, the essay began:

“I am proud to be an American. I am equally as proud of my Asian American heritage.”

 

GGSS Professional development briefings in Brussels

BRUSSELS – Students taking part in the Global Governance Summer School went to Brussels today for professional development briefings. They were exposed to a range of practice areas, from non-governmental organization advocacy, to intergovernmental work, to private law practice.

The day began with a visit to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). There, students were treated to a dialogue on human rights lawyering with Ralph J. Bunche (left), UNPO General Secretary and Professor Diane Marie Amann. They discussed the work of the organization — advocating for the self-determination of unrepresented peoples and nations — and the day-to-day work of advocacy in a human rights organization.

Next, the group traveled to the new headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Steven Hill (fifth from the right, at right), Legal Adviser and Director of the Office of Legal Affairs, took students on a tour of the facility and provided an overview of the work of the Legal Office at NATO. He particularly focused on the text of the North Atlantic Treaty, emerging technologies, and contemporary challenges to the NATO alliance.

Finally, students heard from David Hull (JD ’83) and Porter Elliot (JD ’96) (left), partners at Van Bael & Bellis about private law practice in Brussels. They discussed the practice areas of the firm – primarily European Union competition law and trade law. They shared candid career advice with students, including their personal stories of going from law school in Athens, Georgia to law practice in Brussels.

The day concluded with a reception, graciously hosted by Van Bael & Bellis. The second annual Friends of the Dean Rusk International Law Center Reception, we were pleased to reconnect with alumni/ae and other European partners of the Center.

Tomorrow, the students will return to the classroom, and celebrate the 4th of July deepening their understanding of international law.

2019 Georgia Law-Leuven Centre Global Governance Summer School kicks off

LEUVEN – We are very pleased to launch the third iteration of the Global Governance Summer School today, a partnership between the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia and the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies at KU Leuven. The Summer School continues the four-decades-old Georgia Law tradition of summer international education in Belgium.

Students and faculty arrived yesterday, and were treated to a walking tour of historic Leuven and the lovely campus, one of the oldest in Europe and one of Europe’s premier research institutions. The historic European heat wave has broken, and students enjoyed the spring-like temperatures and a friendly Flemish welcome.

Many GGSS students participated in a walking tour of KU Leuven. From left, Professor Doty, Holly Stephens, Lauren Taylor, Emily Snow, Center Associate Director Amanda Shaw, Alicia Millspaugh, Jessica Parker, Steven Miller, Maria Lagares Romay, and Blanca Ruiz Llevot.

Today, students from Georgia Law and a range of other European institutions spent the day in classroom sessions. Following a welcome by Dr. Axel Marx, Deputy Director at the Leven Centre for Global Governance Studies, and Professor Diane Marie Amann, Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law and Faculty Co-Director of both the Dean Rusk International Law Center and the Global Governance Summer School, students dove headfirst into contemporary international legal topics.

First, Professor Kolja Raube (right), Senior Researcher at the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies and Assistant Professor of European Studies, provided an introduction to global governance. He raised issues of globalization, transnational cooperation, and policy-making.

Second, Georgia Law alumnus and expert in the law of the sea, Professor Erik Franckx (LLM ’83) (left) from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, lectured on the Central Arctic Ocean. Addressing fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean, Professor Franckx focused on instruments and actors governing the area.

Third, Professor Geert Van Calster (left) of Leuven and Head of Leuven Law’s department of European and international law, led a discussion on the use of trade law to achieve non-trade objectives, such as human rights and the promotion of sustainable development.

Finally, Professor Diane Marie Amann (right) from the University of Georgia engaged students on regional legal systems. She explored the history, role, and place of regional systems within the larger system comprising nation-states and international organizations with a global scope.

This evening, students will take in the England-United States semi-final match of the Women’s World Cup. Tomorrow, they will travel to Brussels, Belgium’s nearby capital, for a day of professional development briefings at international organizations and a private law firm.

Georgia Law trio pens Daily Report commentary on ECJ arbitration ruling

Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge, Dean and Herman E. Talmadge Chair of Law here at the University of Georgia School of Law, has co-authored, with 3L Katherine M. Larsen and Amanda W. Newton (JD’19), a commentary on a recent decision related to international arbitration.

Entitled “European Decision Could Have Killed Investment Treaties, Affecting Arbitration and Investments,” the commentary appeared at The Daily Report on June 28.

It discusses the content and the implications of Achmea v. Slovakia, a May 2018 decision in which the European Court of Justice ruled a clause in a bilateral investment treaty to be incompatible with European law. Both that decisions and subsequent interpretation of it in European and US courts, the authors state, leaves “more questions than answers at this point.” (Also see prior post.)