Expert panel of Notre Dame alumni to examine the future of Guantanamo Bay

Author: Kevin Allen

Notre Dame Law School will host a panel discussion on Thursday to explore potential policy changes surrounding the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the use of military tribunals, and the related legal issues and challenges.

The event, which will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 26, in the Patrick F. McCartan Courtroom, will feature three Notre Dame alumni with experience at the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Justice under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“The indefinite detention of suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay detention center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the prosecution of such individuals before a military tribunal have been harshly criticized by human rights lawyers and the international community,” said Notre Dame Law Professor Jimmy Gurulé, who will serve as the event’s moderator.

“The critical issue is whether the continued use of Gitmo and military tribunals can be justified, as a matter of law and policy, 16 years later,” Gurulé said. “Will the Trump administration maintain the status quo or change course?”

President George W. Bush’s administration established the military detention center at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Barack Obama pledged during his 2008 presidential campaign to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, but his administration was unable to do so amid opposition from both sides of the political aisle. The Trump administration, by contrast, has signaled its eagerness to expand the number of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Whether President Donald Trump will continue the use of military tribunals to prosecute members of al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups remains unsettled.

Thursday’s event will welcome three Notre Dame alumni back to campus.

  • Daniel J. Dell’Orto, who earned his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University in 1971, was principal deputy general counsel for the Department of Defense from June 2000 to March 2009. He was also the Department of Defense’s acting general counsel in 2001 and again from March 2008 to February 2009. Dell’Orto will talk about the justification for creating the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and the use of military tribunals to prosecute suspected terrorists.
  • Brian P. Nicholson, ’06 J.D., is a trial attorney in the Office of International Affairs in the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice. He will discuss his experience as an Army judge advocate general and his most recent case as military defense counsel for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
  • Paul M. Lewis, ’80, ’83 J.D., was the Department of Defense Special Envoy for Guantanamo Detention Closure under the Obama administration. He will talk about the logistical, legal, and political challenges implicated by the closure of the Guantanamo detention center. Lewis will also offer his suggested policy changes for Guantanamo’s future.

The event is presented with generous support from the Thomas F. Fay Peace Through Law Endowment for Excellence, and co-sponsored by the Military and Veterans Law Society, the International Law Society, and the Future Prosecuting Attorneys Council.