Sat, Nov 18, 2006 - Page 7 News List

US report pans Guantanamo Bay `justice system'

`ENEMY COMBATANTS' A report compiled by a law professor and his son says that the military hearings held for foreign detainees were `shams'


The US military called no witnesses, withheld evidence from detainees and usually reached a decision within a day as it determined that hundreds of men detained at Guantanamo Bay were "enemy combatants," according to a new report.

The analysis of transcripts and records by two lawyers for Guantanamo detainees, aided by more than two dozen law students, found that hearings that determined whether a prisoner should remain in custody gave the accused little opportunity to contest allegations against him.

"These were not hearings. These were shams," said Mark Denbeaux, an attorney and Seton Hall University law professor who along with his son, Joshua, is the author of the report. They provided an advance copy of the report to the press late on Thursday and planned to release it on the Internet yesterday.

Their report, based on an analysis of records of military hearings of 393 detainees, comes as the US government seeks to severely restrict detainee access to civilian courts, arguing that the Combatant Status Review Tribunals should be their main legal recourse.

Navy Commander Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, called the findings "recycled allegations" and noted the tribunals gave each detainee an opportunity to contest their designation as an enemy combatant.

"It is not a criminal trial and is not intended to determine guilt or innocence," Gordon said. "Rather, it is an administrative process ... to confirm the status of enemy combatants detained at Guantanamo as part of the Global War on Terrorism."

The military held Combatant Status Review Tribunals for 558 detainees at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in southeast Cuba between July 2004 and January last year and found all but 38 were enemy combatants. Handcuffed detainees appeared before a panel of three officers with no defense attorney, only a military "personal representative."

According to the report, the representatives said nothing in the hearings 14 percent of the time and made no "substantive" comments in 30 percent. In some cases, the representative even appeared to advocate the government's position, the report said.

The report is based on transcripts of tribunals that the government first released earlier this year in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Associated Press as well additional records provided by lawyers for 102 Guantanamo detainees.

Twenty-one first-year law students at Seton Hall University in Newark, New Jersey, analyzed the documents to create a database analyzed by eight second and third-year students.

"No American would ever consider this to be hearing," Denbeaux said.

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