A military review of the cases against four terrorism suspects held at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has concluded that they are classified properly as enemy combatants and will not be freed, the official overseeing the process said yesterday.
The four cases were the first of 21 reviewed to be decided. There is no appeal. Four additional cases were being heard yesterday at Guantanamo Bay, raising the total to 25. Their outcomes were not expected to be revealed immediately.
The Pentagon has insisted since it began holding individuals captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the war on terrorism nearly three years ago that they are enemy combatants, not prisoners of war, and can be held indefinitely without charges or access to lawyers.
Human rights organizations have challenged the Pentagon on this, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld announced this year that the cases of each person held at Guantanamo Bay will be reviewed once a year to determine whether they are security threats to the United States.
When the Supreme Court ruled June 28 that the detainees had the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal court, the Pentagon quickly organized the separate review process to determine whether each detainee is an enemy combatant as defined by the Pentagon.
Navy Secretary Gordon R. England, who oversees the reviews but has no say in the outcome of individual cases, said an enemy combatant is "anyone who is part of supporting the Taliban or al Qaeda forces or associated forces engaging in hostilities against the United States or our coalition partners." The detainees are not represented by lawyers.
The reviews began July 30. In a change of policy yesterday, the Pentagon stopped releasing detainees' nationalities when their cases are heard. Nationalities, but not names, of the first 21 were released at their hearings, including five Thursday.
Lt. Cmdr. Beci Brenton, a spokeswoman for the review process, said the decision to stop providing nationalities was made after some countries objected to the release of that information.
Barring an unforeseen delay, all 585 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay will have their cases heard before the end of the year, England said. He said the hearings are taking longer than originally expected, mainly because of language barriers, but additional translators are being hired.