Status-Review Tribunals Under Way at Guantanamo
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2004 Cases have been opened for about 150 detainees to appear before status-review tribunals at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
An official process, called a Combatant Status Review Tribunal, began at Guantanamo two weeks ago. All detainees will have an opportunity to go before one of the three tribunals to contest their status as enemy combatants.
Navy Secretary Gordon England, who is responsible for the process, said today in a Pentagon briefing that cases have been opened on 150 detainees. Once a case is opened, officials review all records pertaining to that detainee and provide the detainee copies of anything that is not classified. The detainee meets with a personal representative -- a U.S. military officer -- who can speak on the detainee's behalf. Detainees have a choice whether to appear in person at the tribunal.
Twenty-one tribunals have been conducted. Once a tribunal is completed, military judge advocates general review the results to make sure everything is in order. Then the convening authority, Navy Reserve Rear Adm. James McGarrah, approves the decision of the three-member tribunal.
McGarrah has approved the results of four tribunals, England said. All four were found to be appropriately designated as enemy combatants.
Detainees in 11 of the tribunals held to date have chosen not to appear in person. England stressed that detainees are making their own decisions about whether to appear before the tribunals. "There's no boycott," he said. "This is an individual situation. Some decide to; some decide not to.
"But there certainly doesn't appear to be any organized effort (to influence) whether to appear or not to appear," he added.
In every case, the detainee had an opportunity to meet with his personal representative. England said none of the 21 detainees whose cases went before tribunals had refused to speak with their personal representatives.
As a courtesy, U.S. officials today notified the embassies of the countries of the four detainees whose tribunal results McGarrah has approved, England said.
Officials originally had hoped to conduct several tribunals a day before three panels of officers. England said today that three panels of officers have been certified to hear cases, but that the process is going a little slower than he had originally hoped. Still, he said, he believes the whole process can be completed in three to four months.
"I'm still not sure what the steady states will be in terms of how many every week," England said, "because we're still on the learning curve." However, he added, officials are adding more translators to the 50 to 60 people already working on the tribunal process to help expedite the tribunals.
England also mentioned that DoD officials have made it clear that representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross were welcome to observe the tribunal proceedings, but have chosen so far not to.