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Homeland Security

01 October 2004

Defense Department Report, October 1: Enemy Combatant Reviews

Navy secretary says review process should be finished by end of 2004

Navy Secretary Gordon England says the process to review the status of detainees at a U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to see if they should continue to be held as "enemy combatants" ought to be completed by year's end.

England, who is the Defense Department's lead official overseeing the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, says the process is proceeding well and the number of tribunals being held are increasing weekly. He also told reporters at the Pentagon October 1 that the Administrative Review Boards -- which determine whether detainees should continue to be held in U.S. custody, be released, or sent home for further detention or evaluation -- would begin in November.

England said 71 detainees have elected to appear before a tribunal to contest their status as enemy combatants as part of the global war on terrorism. So far, he said, 115 tribunals have been held.

The tribunals have been both methodical and fair, according to the secretary. One detainee was released to Pakistan and another 63 were found to be properly classified, following a review by a higher level of authority. The Defense Department has released those who are no longer considered to be a threat to U.S. security interests and have no further intelligence value to exploit.

During the week of September 19, 25 tribunals were conducted, the secretary said, and another 21 have been held so far in the week of September 26. Additional tribunals already scheduled could bring the latter week's rate up to 30, according to England. At this rate, he said all the tribunals will be "completed by the end of the year."

England was asked about 10 new detainees who were transferred from Afghanistan to Guantanamo in late September -- the first time such transfers have occurred in almost one year. He said these detainees would have the same legal rights as those who entered the facility earlier. Although they will queue up behind those who have been detained at Guantanamo for some time, he said, even they will be processed by the end of 2004.

The secretary was also questioned about a July 12 letter written by a British detainee at Guantanamo alleging he has been abused and threatened with torture during his detention there. England said he had not heard of any case like that, but any such allegation would be investigated.

A British Foreign Office spokeswoman was quoted by Reuters as saying Moazzam Begg "never alleged to us that he has been systematically abused at Guantanamo in the way that has been suggested" in a letter circulated by Begg's American lawyer.

England said the International Committee of the Red Cross and others have visited Guantanamo to check on the treatment of detainees from various countries.

For more information about detainees in Guantanamo, see
http://www.defenselink.mil/news/detainees.html

The transcript of England's briefing may be viewed on the Internet at http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2004/tr20041001-1344.html

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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