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American Forces Press Service

Deputy Defense Secretary Tours Guantanamo Legal Complex

By Petty Officer 3rd Class William Weinert, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service

U.S. NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Jan. 14, 2008 – Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England visited here Jan. 12 to review progress of the new Expeditionary Legal Complex, which will be the site of military commissions proceedings once construction is complete.

England last visited Guantanamo Bay in March, when the legal complex was still in its conceptual phase. “It went from literally a concept -- looking out over an open field -- to what is now a complete structure,” he said in describing the Expeditionary Legal Complex, now dubbed Camp Justice.

The complex is equipped with the latest in courtroom technology and includes special holding facilities for detainees on trial.

England said that while he’s impressed with the progress of the facility, its imminent completion doesn’t mean military commission trials will begin right after it’s finished.

"We will not rush the legal process,” he said, noting that legal requirements associated with the trials must also be completed. "We will have their trials at the appropriate times,” he said.

The facility moves Guantanamo another step toward properly assessing the guilt or innocence of detainees subject to military commissions proceedings because of alleged criminal conduct, officials said.

“What has been accomplished here in the past year has been extraordinarily important as we go forward with these commission trials and the world sees that we do have a legal process,” England said.

The deputy defense secretary stressed the importance of Guantanamo’s role in the war on terrorism by asserting the legality of the Joint Task Force mission here.

“People have criticized Guantanamo, but the fact of the matter is, we have been holding detainees under the Law of War, and we will prosecute them according to the Law of War,” he said.

(Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Weinert serves with Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs.)

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