Thu, Aug 05, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Guantanamo Bay detainees refuse to attend hearings

AFP , GUANTANAMO BAY US NAVAL BASE, CUBA

Some "war on terror" detainees held at a special US detention camp here for more than two years are boycotting hearings that could lead to their release, US officials said late Tuesday.

Most of the nearly 600 inmates from about 40 countries at Guantanamo Bay have been held without charge or access to a lawyer for about two and a half years.

Facing international pressure over the controversial detentions and conditions at the camp, the US has started special military tribunal hearings to see whether each inmate should still be held as an "enemy combatant."

The first Combatant Status Review Tribunal was held behind closed doors at Guantanamo last Friday. By late Tuesday six hearings had been held, said defense department spokeswoman Commander Beci Brenton.

But four of the detainees involved refused to attend the hearings to contest their status, she added. Only one of the other two detainees had called a witness, another inmate.

Officials at the base said about 10 percent of the "war on terror" detainees had refused to cooperate with interrogators since being taken to Delta Camp. The camp is in an isolated corner of Guantanamo Bay.

Base officials predicted that the same 10 percent would boycott the review hearings which are carried out by three-man military panels with another officer chosen to represent each individual.

The US military has so far given few details about those who have appeared or what they are charged with. Brenton would only say that the first tribunal involved an Afghan detainee.

Navy Secretary Gordon England was to observe a tribunal hearing at Guantanamo Bay yesterday and representatives of the foreign and US media are to be allowed to watch hearings tomorrow and Friday.

Brenton said the US government was also in contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross about sending observers.

But reporters will not be able to identify the detainees and will only be allowed to listen to what the defense department has called "unclassified" details on individual cases.

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