Lawyers for detainees in the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, filed legal papers yesterday to halt review hearings initiated by the Pentagon, contending that the captives must first be granted access to their attorneys.
The U.S. military on Friday began holding the Combatant Status Review hearings at Guantanamo Bay to allow detainees to challenge their status as enemy combatants. The Pentagon introduced the process after the Supreme Court ruled June 28 that alleged al Qaeda and Taliban fighters have the right to challenge their detentions in U.S. courts.
In the military review hearings, detainees testify and present witnesses or affidavits on their behalf to a three-person panel. They also can be assisted by a "personal representative," an Army officer who is not a lawyer and is not bound by any rules of confidentiality.
Lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Washington-based firm of Keller & Heckman sought an emergency stay to prevent their clients, United Kingdom residents Jamil El Banna, Bisher Al Rawi and Martin Mubanga, from being subject to any proceedings until they have access to their attorneys.
The hearings "are a sham. The detainees are given no access to counsel, have no right to meaningfully contest any classified evidence against them and no meaningful way to call any witnesses in their favor," said Jeff Fogel, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights.
He also criticized the use of the personal representatives during the hearings.
The papers submitted yesterday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia also requested access to all detainee medical records and immediate examinations by independent doctors, citing concerns about the physical well-being of the detainees.
Pentagon spokesmen and attorneys could not be reached for comment yesterday.