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Homeland Security

08 July 2005

Another 29 Guantanamo Detainees To Be Released, Transferred

Admiral overseeing review says 41 others to be retained at Cuba facility

As of July 8, the status of 70 captured combatants of the 520 detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been reviewed by the Defense Department's "parole board," and 29 will be returning to their home country, according to a senior military official.

Navy Rear Admiral James McGarrah, director of the office for the administrative review of the detention of enemy combatants, told journalists at a Pentagon briefing that day that of the 29, four will be released to their home countries and 25 will be transferred to the custody of their respective governments.  The remaining 41 will continue to be held; their cases will be reviewed annually by the same administrative review board (ARB), he said.

The review board process began in December 2004, McGarrah said, even before the combatant status review panels had completed their work (the latter finished in March).  After the review boards make their determination, the admiral said, he reviews each case before sending it to Gordon England, the acting deputy secretary of defense, for a final decision.  England is the "designated civilian official and … final decision-maker in the ARB process," the briefer said.

Once a decision has been made to release or transfer a detainee, McGarrah said, the State Department must contact the detainees' governments to receive assurances that those who are released will not be harmed or harassed in any way, while those transferred back to their own country will not continue to pose a threat to the international community.

Transfer of a detainee only takes place after the U.S. government has discussions with the country to which the detainee is being transferred and after the United States receives necessary assurances regarding security measures and future treatment of the detainee post transfer.

"There are some [detainees] currently at Guantanamo Bay that we would like to release, but have not yet obtained the appropriate assurances to do so," McGarrah added.  He did not say how many individuals might fall into this category.

The admiral noted that more than 200 detainees kept at Guantanamo had been released or transferred before the administrative review process began, and that a dozen detainees returned to combat.  This illustrates that the process is not perfect and that it entails risks, he said.

McGarrah said the enemy combatants were being detained to keep them from returning to fight against the United States and its allies and to obtain intelligence information.  "This kind of detention of enemy combatants is both allowed and widely accepted under the Law of Armed Conflict," he said, adding that "very valuable insights" about al-Qaida have been gained from the Guantanamo detainees.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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