Sept. 10, 2004 – A military tribunal has decided to release a longtime captive from the Guantanamo Bay prison after determining that he was not an "enemy combatant." Three years ago, the man was pulled off a battlefield in Afghanistan, held in a facility in that country for a few months, and transferred to the infamous US detention camp on the island of Cuba. Navy Secretary Gordon R. England announced the decision but did not give details as to why the man was detained.
Civil liberties advocates have chastised the government for detaining prisoners for such long periods of time. Many have been held for almost three years without access to lawyers or the right to challenge their detentions.
American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero said in a statement yesterday, "It should not take more than two years for the US military to determine that we were holding someone who is apparently not an enemy combatant."
They have also criticized the Militaryâ€™s Combatant Status Review Tribunal process by which the detainee was ruled out as being an enemy combatant. The tribunals are the Bush administrationâ€™s answer to the June Supreme Court ruling that the detainees at Guantanamo must have access to US courts to challenge their detention. Civilian lawyers seeking to represent the Guantanamo detainees say the tribunal process has much lower standards of evidence and burden than the US civilian court system, and that it also does not provide for the right to counsel.
So far, 55 or the approximately 585 prisoners at the Cuba detention center have completed the tribunal process and thirty of the cases have been decided, according to the Washington Post. Twenty-nine have been determined "enemy combatants," a designation assigned by the Bush administration, which critics say is a ploy to avoid granting the rights provided "prisoners of war."