As part of his efforts to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of a group of Guantánamo detainees being held without charge or trial, attorney Tom Wilner presented three arguments to the justices.  The first two focused on the need to restore America’s standing in the world and to grant the prisoners their constitutional right to a fair hearing.  The last presented the case of Cyclura nubila, also known as the Cuban Rock Iguana: a herbivorous lizard indigenous to the region and protected under the 1973 US Endangered Species Act.  When an iguana crosses the perimeter fence into the naval base it becomes subject to U.S. law, with military personnel liable to fines of up to $10,000 for harming the animals.  Wilner argued that if the courts extended jurisdiction to include the iguanas while denying the detainees due process, they would be affording more rights to reptiles than humans.

The Supreme Court subsequently agreed to hear the case.

Cyclura is etymologically derived from the Greek 'cyclos' or circular; nubila is Latin for cloudy.  Of the 780 prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo since 2002, only 8 have been convicted.  689 were deemed no threat to the United States and released without charge, often after spending years in solitary confinement in an eight-foot-by-ten-foot-cell.  A further 9 people have died in custody.  Trials by the military commission are held in closed session and cameras are forbidden in the courtroom.   

Janet Hamlin, the primary courtroom sketch artist at the GTMO tribunals, has been documenting the proceedings since 2006.  Each of her drawings is cleared by the military censor prior to release.  Cyclura nubila (2014) comprises a series of portraits I commissioned from Hamlin on standard 19 x 25 inch courtroom sketch paper of the iguanas roaming, freely, across the grounds of Guantánamo.

Cabinet Magazine, issue 59

Cyclura nubila,  2014.  Commissioned drawings by GTMO courtroom sketch artist Janet Hamlin.

Cyclura nubila, 2014.  Commissioned drawings by GTMO courtroom sketch artist Janet Hamlin.