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July 22, 2013

Detainee Reviews Welcomed, Process Remains In Question

Washington, DC – As the Pentagon prepares to hold periodic review board hearings for 71 of the remaining 166 Guantanamo detainees, Human Rights First ‘s Daphne Eviatar issued the following statement:

“Though long-delayed, this is a welcome step forward toward fulfilling the President’s promise to shutter the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo. As the Pentagon prepares to move forward with these hearings, it should take steps to provide greater transparency throughout the process and permit outside observation for each proceeding. It should also provide detainees lawyers with access to all relevant evidence, rather than a non-lawyer personal representative who is not trained to work in the best interests of their client and who does not enjoy confidential communication privileges with detainees. Failure to make these changes will just lead to more speculation about the legitimacy of these procedures.”

In December 2012, Human Rights First issued How to Close Guantanamo, a blueprint for the Obama Administration. That document advised the administration to direct the secretary of defense to immediately initiate Periodic Review Board hearings for eligible detainees, a step that would be in compliance with President Obama’s March 2011 Presidential Executive Order to do so. That executive order, codified in the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, established interagency Periodic Review Boards (PRBs) to determine whether law of war detainees should be transferred because they no longer pose a significant threat to the security of the United States. At the time, the executive order mandated that each detainee should have an initial review, consisting of a PRB hearing, no later than March 7, 2012. While the Pentagon announcement states that the hearings are forthcoming, no hearings have been completed to-date.

“It is encouraging to see progress with regard to these hearings, but the upcoming PRBs should be about more than fulfilling the Presidential Executive Order. They should be about driving the number of detainees at Guantanamo down to zero,” concluded Eviatar.

For more information or to speak with Eviatar, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.