Annual Reviews of Detainee Cases to Begin at Guantanamo
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2004 Officials are gearing up to begin the first hearings to determine if enemy-combatant detainees held at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are still a threat or can be released to their home countries.
Navy Secretary Gordon England appeared before the Pentagon press corps today to give an update on processes affecting Guantanamo detainees. He said the first administrative review boards are likely to begin in November.
England approved procedures for the boards on Sept. 14, he said. The ARBs are designed to be an annual hearing for each detainee to determine if an individual is still a threat to the United States. If an individual is found to not be a threat, he could be returned to his home country to face further detention there or be released in his home country.
The secretary, who was appointed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to oversee this process, said today that 12 cases have been referred to the State Department to notify the detainees' home countries.
At the ARB proceedings, England explained, detainees can present evidence and call witnesses. Their families and home countries also have the opportunity to present statements, evidence or witnesses on the detainees' behalf. Home countries are notified about a month before the hearings to give them time to compile information, England said.
The review boards are completely separate from the combatant status review tribunals going on now at Guantanamo. The status-review tribunals are a one- time process during which detainees have an opportunity to protest their detention before a panel of three officers. The tribunals then decide whether each detainee is properly classified as an enemy combatant.
No detainee will go before an annual review board until a Combatant Status Review Tribunal has looked into his case and ruled that he is an enemy combatant.
To date, 115 of the approximately 550 detainees at Guantanamo have gone through the tribunal process. England said he expects tribunals will be held for all the detainees by the end of this year.
After they began July 30, the tribunals got off to a slow start because of administrative issues that have since been resolved. Several hurricanes that passed through the Caribbean further delayed the process. But, England said, officials working on the tribunal process are getting more efficient as time goes on. "I am pleased to tell you that the rate has gone up appreciably," he said, noting that 25 hearings were held last week.
Officials don't release tribunal results until they have been reviewed by a board of military attorneys and approved by the tribunal's convening authority, Navy Rear Adm. James McGarrah. To date, McGarrah has approved the results of 64 tribunals. One of those men was found to not be an enemy combatant; the other 63 were found to be correctly classified as enemy combatants.
England had few details about the man who was found not to be an enemy combatant. He said the man was returned to his home country, Pakistan, Sept. 18, but could not say whether the man was then released or further held by the Pakistani government.