13 August 2004
Four Guantanamo Detainees Determined to be Enemy Combatants
Review panel identifies those who will remain in custody
Washington -- Four detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.S. Navy base, who have had their cases reviewed by a special military panel, are properly classified as enemy combatants and will not be released, Navy Secretary Gordon England says.
At a Pentagon briefing August 13, England said the Defense Department has conducted 21 tribunals over the past two weeks, and has opened an additional 150 cases. Reviewing the cases of all of the nearly 600 detainees is expected to take the rest of this year, he said.
"In all four of those cases, the detainees were deemed to be enemy combatants," England said. "We notified the State Department today, who will in turn notify the countries, I believe through the embassies here, regarding those four particular cases."
England said the names and nationalities of the four suspects would not be made public.
The Defense Department is reviewing the status of the nearly 600 detainees at Guantanamo through a process conducted by Combatant Status Review Tribunals to determine if the detainees are enemy combatants. The Pentagon defines enemy combatants as anyone who was part of supporting the Taliban or al Qaeda forces or associated forces that fought against the United States or coalition partners in Afghanistan, he explained.
If a detainee is found not to be an enemy combatant, then he will be released to his home country, England said.
Each detainee's case is reviewed by one of the three-member tribunals, and a Judge Advocate General Corps officer then reviews the findings. He compiles the data from the tribunal and its recommendation, and then sends it to Washington for review by the convening authority, Navy Admiral James McGarrah. McGarrah has the final determination to either accept the decision or send the case back for an additional hearing, England said.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 28 that the detainees could challenge their detention in federal courts. The Pentagon, in response to that court decision, established the military review panels.
These review panels are different from the military commission established by President Bush in 2002 to conduct trials of non-U.S. terrorist suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay. While no trials have been held yet, the Pentagon has already identified 15 detainees as eligible for trial.
England said members of the news media have been permitted to attend the first tribunals.
He also said the review process has been much more difficult than originally anticipated.
"It's more time consuming just to do all of the appropriate translation, interviews with the detainees themselves, having the right translators available, [and] being able to translate the information," he said. And, he noted, the three tribunal review teams are working simultaneously.
England said about half of those detainees selected to appear before the tribunals have appeared during their review, but the other half have not. But whether they choose to appear or not, he said, their cases are reviewed and each detainee has a U.S. representative assigned to him for assistance.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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