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No Counsel for Guantanamo Suspects

March 04, 2004|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Foreign terrorism suspects held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, do not have the right to a lawyer when appearing before a panel that would annually consider their possible release, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

The Pentagon unveiled draft rules for administrative review panels of three military officers that would serve as parole boards for Guantanamo prisoners. A prisoner has the right to make his case personally to a board at a hearing, with an interpreter supplied by the Pentagon if necessary, but has no right to counsel, the Pentagon said.

"The detainee is not going to be given an attorney," said a defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The review board would assign a U.S. military officer "to assist the enemy combatant in preparing his presentation to the board," and that officer may "serve as the spokesperson for the enemy combatant in presenting his information to the board," a Pentagon memorandum said.

The prisoner's home country would be allowed to provide a written submission to the review panel, including information from his family, the Pentagon said. A U.S. military officer would present the panel with any information demonstrating the need for continued imprisonment.

The United States holds at Guantanamo about 640 non-U.S. citizens caught in what President Bush calls the global war on terrorism. Most were captured in Afghanistan. Rights groups have criticized the U.S. for holding the prisoners, some for more than two years, with no charges or legal representation.

The Pentagon memo said the review process permitted each prisoner at least annually "to explain why he is no longer a threat to the United States and its allies in the ongoing armed conflict against Al Qaeda and its affiliates and supporters."

"They're saying they're going to do the reviews on an annual basis," said Wendy Patten, U.S. advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "What's striking to me about the process is that it's an acknowledgment that the administration plans to hold perhaps quite a number of these detainees for many, many years."

Charges have been brought against two Guantanamo prisoners. The Pentagon has assigned U.S. military lawyers to represent four, including the two charged.

The United States has classified those held at Guantanamo as "enemy combatants."

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