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SIU Law faculty visit detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay as guests of the U.S. Department of Defense

Two faculty members from the Southern Illinois University School of Law visited the detention facilities and military commissions courthouse at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on September 27, 2012.  Associate Professor Christopher W. Behan and Assistant Professor Lucian E. Dervan accompanied an official Department of Defense visit to the island at the invitation of the Rule of Law and Detainee Policy section of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  They met their traveling party in Washington, DC, and flew from Joint Base Andrews on a Navy aircraft.

The purpose of their visit was to obtain first-hand knowledge of detainee operations at Guantanamo Bay in preparation for the SIU School of Law's symposium, "Guantanamo Bay: What Next?" which is scheduled for February 22, 2013 at the School of Law.  The conference will feature presentations from scholars, government officials and defense counsel on the constitutionality of the commissions, international legal issues pertaining to the detainees, and the ethical, procedural and evidentiary issues associated with trials by military commission.  With this visit, all three SIU School of Law professors involved in planning and organizing the conference have traveled personally to Guantanamo Bay.  Professor Cindy Buys, the law school's Director of International Programs, visited the base last year at the invitation of the Miami-based United States Southern Command.

Behan and Dervan have visited several state and federal prisons in the United States, as well as a maximum security terrorist detention facility in Israel.  "The detention operations at Guantanamo Bay face similar issues as any prison confining people against their will," said Behan.  "But Guantanamo Bay faces additional challenges, including logistics, a population that presents an existential threat to the national security of the United States, and the constant scrutiny of national and international human rights groups and non-governmental organizations.  The joint task force that manages these operations is responsible to guarantee the international legal rights of the detainees, provide medical care, ensure their ability to practice their religion, grant access to defense counsel and international observers, all in a remote location to which all supplies must be shipped by barge or aircraft.  It's a challenging task that can't truly be appreciated without seeing the base firsthand.  History will judge whether these efforts were successful, but Guantanamo Bay illustrates what a democracy faces when it confronts external threats while still trying to maintain its values and sustaining the rule of law."

Dervan added, "This was a remarkable opportunity and we are grateful to the U.S. Department of Defense for opening their doors and providing us the chance to learn first-hand about the operations at GTMO.  As we prepare for the upcoming conference regarding Guantanamo Bay, the insights and observations from this trip will prove invaluable at providing a deeper level of discussion and analysis.  I'm very much looking forward to the conference, and I know the panel discussions and symposium issue of the SIU Law Journal will add greatly to the international dialog regarding detention issues."