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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

First Guantanamo tribunal tapes released under FOIA
Bernard Hibbitts at 4:47 PM ET

[JURIST] Audio recordings of proceedings from several US Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) [DOD materials] hearings conducted at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] in 2004 were made public for the first time Tuesday by National Public Radio after being released to lawyers for two Guantanamo detainees acting under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The detainees, Hadj Boudella and Mustafa Ait Idir, are Bosnians who were taken into custody by US officials and sent to Guantanamo after being acquitted in Bosnia in connection with a plot to bomb the US and British embassies in Sarajevo. The Pentagon has already provided written transcripts of CSRT hearings [DOD materials], but the recordings provide the general first opportunity to hear the voices of detainees and assess the dynamic of their interactions with Tribunal members. Presiding officers can be heard giving routine directions, warnings, asking questions, and even expressing concern for the comfort of the detainees [recorded audio]. The detainees themselves try to tell their stories, complain about their treatment, question the unclassified evidence presented against them, and even express optimism that truth will come out of their attempts to defend themselves [recorded audio]. NPR has more.

A report [text, PDF] released last week by lawyers at Seton Hall Law School concluded [JURIST report] on the basis of now-publicly-available records that CSRTs do not offer detainees at Guantanamo Bay an adequate opportunity to contest the accusations against them or to object to their status as enemy combatants. Detainees failed to present any evidence of their guilt or innocence in 91 percent of the hearings, leading the report to conclude: "No American would ever consider this a hearing... This is a show trial." The US government says that the Combatant Status Reviews afford detainees adequate opportunity to contest their detention and has opposed detainees' access to civilian courts.

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