Seventy-one prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility will receive hearings concerning their detention, the Pentagon notified habeas attorneys via email on Friday evening. Attorneys received no details on when hearings would commence or which prisoners would be receiving them, simply that the process was being activated.
More than two years ago, President Obama ordered the hearings be conducted by the Periodic Review Board (PRB) to evaluate the status of prisoners who have been “designated for continued law of war detention; or…referred for prosecution, except for those detainees against whom charges are pending or a judgment of conviction has been entered.” The process will not determine the legality of a prisoner’s detention itself.
Those slated to receive a hearing include the 46 “indefinite detainees” whom the Obama administration classified as being too great a threat to the security of the U.S. to release, although there is not enough evidence to support a criminal trial, along with 25 other prisoners who have been designated for trial by military commissions or civilian courts since 2010.
The first hearings for Guantanamo prisoners began in 2004. This series of hearings will be the second under the Obama administration. At the start of Obama’s presidency in 2009, Guantanamo held 242 prisoners. In the first round of hearings, the administration cleared 126–more than half of the detention center’s prisoners–for release. So far, 72 have been transferred.
“I’m hopeful that the process will be meaningful and fair. I think that’s the way people involved want it to be,” said attorney David Remes, who represents 18 prisoners, four of whom have already been approved for transfer. “I don’t see what a detainee has to lose, and if he’s approved he’s a step ahead. The question is, does it mean anything to be approved for release?”
Since the president’s call to close Guantanamo in May during his speech at the National Defense University, none of the prisoners have been transferred or repatriated.