Hearings for 14 Guantanamo Detainees to Be Held in Secret, Officials Say
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Military tribunals are scheduled to begin Friday for 14 high-value foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but the hearings to determine whether they are enemy combatants will take place behind closed doors because of the risk that top-secret information could surface, defense officials said yesterday.
The hearings will be the first secret Combatant Status Review Tribunals at Guantanamo; similar proceedings for hundreds of other detainees have been open to news media.
The hearings were to be the first time men such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed -- the alleged architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- made public appearances since their arrests and years-long detention in secret CIA facilities.
Instead, the 14 detainees will face separate three-officer panels out of view and without a lawyer. They will each have a government-provided personal representative and the opportunity to address the tribunals. None of the men has seen anyone other than his captors, except for representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross who visited shortly after their arrival in September.
Though President Bush has determined that the detainees are enemy combatants, new U.S. laws require the tribunals. If the detainees are found to be enemy combatants, they will be entitled to annual reviews of their status until they face trial.
Defense officials also announced that a second round of annual reviews for 328 detainees had been completed, with 55 getting recommendations for transfer to their home nations and 273 being referred for continued detention at Guantanamo.
There are 385 detainees at the facility; about 80 have been cleared for transfer to other countries. It is unclear what will happen to detainees who are not cleared for transfer but have not been charged with crimes, although Bush has expressed a desire to close the detention facility.