71 Gitmo inmates to get parole-style hearings - Pentagon
The Sunday announcement came after the US Department of Defense
sent emails to the attorneys of some of the 71 Gitmo inmates on
The messages informed the lawyers that the government has finally
started preparations to hold the so-called Periodic Review
Boards, which were ordered by President Barack Obama in March
2011. It was not specified when the panels will take place or
which detainees will see their cases reviewed first.
Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale declined to
confirm media speculations that the hearing will start in
mid-September, only saying that the first panel will take place
“when conditions dictate.”
According to the spokesman, 71 inmates are currently being
processed by the Periodic Review Secretariat Director, retired
Navy Rear Admiral Norton C. Joerg.
Forty-six of the inmates are “indefinite detainees” who are considered too dangerous to be released, but can’t be tried due to lack of evidence. The remaining 25 inmates were listed as candidates for trials back in 2010.
“Our number may be reduced if charges are referred to a
military commission,” Breasseale said, as quoted by the
Washington Post. “Likewise, our number could increase if
convictions are overturned or charges are withdrawn.”
There are currently 166 people being held at Guantanamo Bay. Six
of those are awaiting death penalty trials, while three have been
convicted of war crimes. Those inmates will not receive hearings.
Eighty-six others are also ineligible for reviews as they’ve
already been cleared for release. However, those inmates remain
locked up because the Obama administration is in no hurry to
overcome restrictions on releases set by the US Congress.
The remaining 71 detainees, who will receive hearings after more
than a decade of waiting, include 13 Afghans, 26 Yemenis, three
Saudis, two Kuwaitis, two Libyans, a Kenyan, a Moroccan and a
The six members of the panel will represent the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security, Breasseale said.
It is unclear whether the review board members will travel to
Cuba for the hearings or whether they will use a video link
between the prison and Washington - a common practice for federal
judges considering habeas corpus petitions.
The spokesman also didn’t say whether journalists will be allowed
to watch and take pictures during the hearings, despite
Guantanamo inmates seeking wider coverage in the press.
In his Friday letter to the lawyers of the detainees, Periodic
Review Secretariat Director Joerg stressed that the panels won’t
be deciding whether the Pentagon is lawfully imprisoning their
clients, but will instead “assess whether continued law of war
detention is necessary to protect against a continuing
significant threat to the security of the US.”
News of the hearings comes amid pressure from the International
Committee of the Red Cross, which has urged the Obama
administration to press ahead with the reviews.
A mass hunger strike has been underway for more than three months
at Guantanamo Bay. The latest update has revealed that 75
detainees are continuing to partake in the strike.
Forty-six of the hunger striking detainees are being force-fed.
The highly controversial practice is currently being conducted
after dark, in consideration of the holy month of Ramadan – when
Muslims fast during the day.
Meanwhile, people from around the world have also vowed to take
part in the hunger strike, in support of the “Stand Fast for
The site is run by Reprieve, a UK-based organization which
“uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from
death row to Guantanamo Bay.”
Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle was one of the participants,
taking part in a weekly hunger strike in solidarity with the last
remaining British Guantanamo Bay prisoner, Shaker Aamer, who has
been refusing food for over 150 days now.
Boyle began fasting on Wednesday, July 14, taking the baton from
Aamer's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith.
The comedian, who donated the £50,000 he won in a libel lawsuit against the Daily Mirror to fund Aamer's legal fund in December, is keeping Twitter followers updated on how he’s coping with the the hunger strike.
Day 6. Hello ribs. Lets spare a thought today for all the poor sods in Guantanamo. Charged with nothing. http://t.co/VwfJ4Cdrdp— Frankie Boyle (@frankieboyle) July 22, 2013
Stafford Smith told the Guardian that British actress Julie
Christie has agreed to participate in one week of the joint
hunger strike, in support of Aamer.
Aamer was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 and has since been held at Guantanamo Bay without charge, despite being cleared for release in 2007.