By Theodore Bunker
December 30, 2021
The Department of Defense is constructing a new courtroom for war crimes trials at Guantánamo Bay which will not allow the public inside the chamber, The New York Times reports.
The courtroom, the second at the military base, will also allow two military judges to preside over separate proceedings simultaneously. In larger cases, such as the trials of five men accused of planning the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the hearings would take place in the currently existing chamber that is accessible by the public via a gallery.
The new chamber, which costs about $4 million, would be used for smaller cases. A gallery was not included in the new chamber, which the Pentagon said was due to the additional cost involved, meaning that people need a secret clearance in order to enter.
Ron Flesvig, a spokesman for the Office of Military Commissions, told the Times that because of the lack of physical gallery, the court staff are working on a “virtual gallery with multiple camera angles simultaneously displayed.”
The new courtroom will also broadcast a delayed video of the proceedings to a separate building where members of the public can watch. This delay allows the judge or a security official to mute anything classified that might be revealed during the proceedings and is also used in broadcasts of proceedings in the currently existing courtroom.
The Times notes that this is the latest in a series of moves that restrict public access to the base, which has also forbidden photographs of some locations that were previously viewable by the public and has made wartime prison facilities unavailable to journalists. The newspaper also reports that some incidents inside the currently existing courtroom in the past were only viewable by those inside the chamber due to the video being cutoff, such as an incident in which an uncooperative defendant was restrained without his prosthetic leg.