The 2004 Guantanamo Military Commissions

Last week NPR’s Morning Edition aired a story about Guantanamo sketch artist Janet Hamlin saying, “When the secretive military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay began, only one courtroom sketch artist was allowed in. Her name is Janet Hamlin.” That’s not exactly correct.

Janet is a great artist and has done a great job visually documenting the tribunals created ¬†under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. She has recently come out with a book of her drawings, “Sketching Guantanamo, Court Sketches of the Military Tribunals, 2006-2013″, that is a must buy. But I just want to set the record straight that the first Military Commissions were in 2004. The Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld found that they violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and The Geneva Conventions, and that the president did not have the authority to create them without authorization of Congress.

So, to be correct, when the secretive military tribunals at Guantanamo began, in 2004, only one artist was allowed in, me. Below are some of my sketches, never before posted -it was before I had a blog, done during four days in August 2004 at Guantanamo.

Above, NGO observers; below, members of the arabic language press.

I wasn’t allowed to portray the likenesses of the detainees or Guantanamo personnel.

Above Australian detainee David Hicks, seated, his military lawyers’ hand on his back. Hicks’ parents are in the left foreground.

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About

Courtartist is me, Art Lien. I've been sketching the courts since 1976, and for most of that time the U.S. Supreme Court has been my regular beat. I've been working almost exclusively for NBC News since 1980. Courtroom sketching is a form of visual journalism or reportage drawing that is slowly dying out. Where once upon a time news organization each had their own artist covering a story, today a "pool" artist often sketches for all. It is a demanding and stressful discipline where the drawing is often done directly and under tight deadline.

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