Criminal Defence Lawyer Nancy Hollander: Experiences from Guantanamo

On 16 July 2015, The Hague Institute for Global Justice hosted a lecture by distinguished criminal defence lawyer Ms. Nancy Hollander. She spoke about the recent book ‘Guantanamo Diary’ by Mahomedou Ould Slahi, a Guantanamo Bay prisoner whom she represents. The session was moderated by Dr Aaron Matta, Senior Researcher in The Hague Institute’s Rule of Law Program.

Ms. Hollander began her talk by describing the circumstances in which Mahomedou Ould Slahi came to be in Guantanamo Bay and how she became involved in his case, together with a number of other lawyers. She highlighted some of the difficulties they faced in this regard, in particular while bringing legal challenges to Mahomedou Ould Slahi’s continuing detention at Guantanamo Bay.

During her early involvement with the case Ms. Hollander recalled that she had encouraged him to write down his daily experiences in a notebook provided by the facility’s staff. Despite his initial reluctance he began doing so, and over time he amassed a hand-written manuscript of over 400 pages, which would ultimately become ‘Guantanamo Diary’.

Ms. Hollander then explained the legal battle which preceded the eventual publication of the book. The difficulties stemmed from the fact that his recollections, as written down in his notebook, were deemed by the authorities to be classified information; this would therefore prevent the publication of the manuscript in its original form. Nonetheless, after being redacted by the authorities, the book is now available in multiple languages and has enjoyed a wide readership, both within the U.S. and elsewhere.

Despite the many legal difficulties faced by Mahomedou Ould Slahi thus far, Ms. Hollander expressed hope that his situation could be resolved in the near future. She then briefly outlined her involvement in representing another Guantanamo Bay prisoner, Abd Rahim Al-Nashiri, whose case involves a different set of legal challenges. Furthermore, Ms. Hollander talked about her involvement in Chelsea Manning’s military appeal, which is currently ongoing, and once again expressed hope that the result of the appeal will be favourable for her client.

Finally, Ms. Hollander also addressed a number of contemporary legal issues, such as the lack of an internationally accepted definition of terrorism, the U.S.’ relationship with the International Criminal Court, and the future of Guantanamo Bay and the individuals currently detained there.

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