Guantanamo Detainees Notified of Rights; Tribunals to Begin Soon
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 16, 2004 Roughly 95 percent of detainees held at the U.S. naval base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "responded positively" to being notified they have a right to contest their status before a tribunal and be appointed a personal representative.
The Combatant Status Review Tribunal Notice is read to a
detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, July 13. Photo by Airman Randall Damm,
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Defense officials announced July 8 they would be holding a series of Combatant Status Review Tribunals to review the enemy-combatant designation of every detainee at Guantanamo. Detainees have been notified of their rights under the new procedures over the past week.
Navy Secretary Gordon R. England, who has been appointed to oversee the process, said today that 95 percent of the detainees notified "listened, read and asked questions." During a news briefing in the Pentagon, England said the most commonly asked questions were: "When can I meet with my personal representative?" and "When will the tribunal process begin?"
About 5 percent of the detainees responded negatively, "that is, they crumbled up the notice and threw it on the floor," he said.
To date, 14 people who will work with the tribunal process have arrived in Guantanamo and are undergoing "familiarization" with procedures on the base and their responsibilities. England said more individuals would be arriving in the following week.
He estimated personal representatives -- U.S. military officers assigned to assist the detainees in presenting information to the tribunals -- would begin meeting with detainees early the following week and that the tribunals could begin as early as late that week.
The tribunal plan calls for three panels of three officers each running hearings simultaneously throughout each day. Ideally, England said, officials would like to complete 72 such hearings each week until all Guantanamo detainees have had their cases heard.
"That's our hope; that's our expectation," England said. "I don't know if we can meet that rate, but we will try to meet that rate."
England stressed these tribunals are not trials that will decide guilt or innocence, but administrative proceedings designed to verify once more that each detainee is an enemy combatant and to give the detainees a chance to contest that status and present evidence on their own behalf.
Detainees found to have been incorrectly categorized as enemy combatants would be sent home, England said.