Tribunals Begin for Guantanamo Detainees
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 30, 2004 The tribunals to determine if detainees held at Guantanamo are enemy combatants began today, said Navy Secretary Gordon England.
England said the process will review the status of detainees to determine if they are enemy combatants. If they are deemed not to be enemy combatants, they will be freed, England said.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld designated England as the DoD point man for the process. England told a Pentagon press conference that he signed the implementing guidance for the combatant status review tribunals July 29.
The secretary said there are more than 40 people in Guantanamo reviewing detainee records. They are also meeting with detainees in preparation for the tribunals.
England said the process will start slowly and then accelerate. He said officials in Guantanamo will take the lessons from the first tribunals and apply them to later ones.
"Over the next few weeks, we will then stand up two more tribunal teams," he said. "Optimistically we are hoping that each team can conduct 24 tribunals a week. Again, that may not be achievable because some of these can be complex cases, but that's our hope and expectation."
He hopes all the tribunals will be finished within 30 to 120 days. Some may lag because of the complexity of the cases.
England said he will travel to Guantanamo to oversee the process next week. He also said a small media pool will be allowed to see the process.
DoD is speaking with members of the International Red Cross to see if they wish to observe the proceedings, England also noted.
Following the tribunals will be the annual review process. That process determines if an enemy combatant continues to be a threat to the United States or to its allies. "We will have both processes going on in parallel," England said. "But the tribunals by necessity will lead the annual review process by (a) week, two weeks, several weeks, whatever it is we can do in terms standing up the next boards."