Seventy-one Guantanamo detainees who the Obama administration has determined are neither guilty nor cleared for release have been granted “parole-style” hearings at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, the Pentagon said in a series of emails to the prisoners’ lawyers over the weekend.
The emails, sent after 10 p.m. on Friday by Pentagon bureaucrats, notified the prisoners’ attorneys that preparations to hold the “Periodic Review Boards” were underway. However, the messages were received with skepticism as lawyers maintained that the prisoners were essentially cleared of guilt years ago but have remained in the detention facility indefinitely.
Rather than determining the innocence or guilt of the detainees, the six-member military boards will “assess whether continued law of war detention is necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States,” said Retired Rear Adm. Norton C. Joerg, who informed the lawyers of the hearings.
David Remes, a Washington, DC-based human rights attorney who represents more than a dozen Guantanamo prisoners, said he “commends the motivation behind giving these men a second look.” However, he added, “The question I have is what is there that’s new to look at?”
“What’s surreal about this is that nobody is going to have new information about what happened 11 or 12 years ago,” he said.
Remes continued, “We’ll do everything we can to argue that the detainee should be approved for transfer. The periodic review board is likely to be predisposed to approval to transfer because the idea here is to close down Guantanamo. But I just don’t understand how this is supposed to work.”
“Because whatever process or structure you set up the government has everything in its files that it always had. The accusations will remain the same. They went to an al-Qaeda training camp. We’ve been through this over and over,” Remes said.
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