Meghan Rice, a 3L, shared observations from her trip to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba with her hometown newspaper, the Cherry Hill Sun, on May 12.
Rice attended court hearings for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi accused of organizing the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, as a non-government observer at the Guantanamo Bay detention base earlier in 2018.
The hearings were markedly different from most court proceedings, Rice said.
For one thing, Rice said, observers are separated from the courtroom by thick glass, and there’s a 40-second audio delay that allows time for court officials to mute statements the could threaten national security.
“It’s the balancing of national security versus rights,” she said. “My concern as a law student is if I’m there and I can’t get a lot of access, if there is really accountability.”
A week of hearings led Rice to conclude that limitations public access to information could readily create obstacles to justice.
“While I was there, for a full week, I still felt like there was a lot of information that I did not have access to,” Rice said. “I found it frustrating that there were a lot of things hidden.”
The article noted that Rice was able to arrange the trip with the help of Professor Anil Kalhan, who leads an International Human Rights Advocacy clinic seminar and chairs the New York City Bar Association’s International Human Rights Committee.
“When I became chair, I wanted to create opportunity to facilitate Drexel students’ involvement with the New York City Bar Association and this committee,” Kalhan told the newspaper. “Guantanamo has dropped off the radar screen to a considerable extent. Ten years ago, there was a lot more attention because there were more detainees at Guantanamo and there were more journalists covering the proceedings.”
Kalhan said it’s encouraging to see such a commitment to human rights in Rice, who organized a panel discussion on the subject at the law school, which included Adam Thurschwell, general counsel for the Military Commissions Defense Organization; Julie Jetton, a member of the New York City Bar Association’s military affairs and justice commission, and Professor Pammela Quinn.
“I think that’s it really essential,” he said. “There are some significant issues of concern that have never been confronted.”