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Gitmo review tribunals wrap up; 38 detainees ordered released

[JURIST] The Defense Department said Tuesday that Combatant Status Review Tribunals [DOD backgrounder] for all Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees have been completed. Navy Secretary Gordon England [official profile], who has overseen the CSRT process, announced that 38 of 558 detainees were determined not to be "enemy combatants" and were ordered released from the Cuban naval base without compensation. Gordon used Tuesday's press briefing [DOD transcript] to defend both the detention of terror suspects and the CSRTs as complying with the Supreme Court's 2004 decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld [PDF opinion; JURIST report]:

First, the basis of detaining captured enemy combatants is not to punish but, rather, to prevent them from continuing to fight against the United States and its coalition partners in the ongoing global war on terrorism. Detention of captured enemy combatants is both allowed and accepted under international law of armed conflict.

Second, the Combatant Status Review Tribunals have provided a venue for detainees to personally challenge their status as enemy combatants. As you will recall, in last June's Supreme Court decision in "Hamdi," Justice O'Connor explicitly suggested that a process based on existing military regulations -- and she specifically cited Army regulation 190-8 -- might be sufficient to meet due process standards. You'll also perhaps know that that Army regulation is what the U.S. uses to implement Article 5 of the Geneva Convention that deals with prisoners of war.

So our CSRT process incorporates that guidance from Article 5, Army regulation 190-8 and, as I mentioned in the past, it adds features for further benefit of the detainee. For example, a personal representative is made available to each detainee to assist in preparing his case before the CSRT.

Third, we have notified all enemy combatants of the opportunity to challenge their detention in federal district court. During this process, several detainees have completed documents for submission directly to the federal court here in Washington, D.C.

Lastly, our national security interests would be harmed if classified information about terrorist organizations and activities were released, so in many cases much of the information about a detainee is classified. In fairness to the detainee, we have the intelligence community clear unclassified summaries of this information about each detainee, which is then shared with each detainee as the unclassified basis for his detention.
Human rights lawyers, however, have questioned the constitutionality of the CSRTs, saying detainees were not allowed to have lawyers and were unable to challenge secret evidence against them. A case on what rights detainees have under the Hamdi ruling is currently pending before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Boston Globe has more.

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