Guantánamo detainee reviews closed to public

Parole-style reviews for Guantánamo detainees will be conducted in closed session when they start up this week.

The Pentagon notified those who requested to observe this week’s first hearing for the Guantánamo Bay Periodic Review Board (PRB) that it would not be open to the public.

Pentagon officials said they were not ready to open the hearings to reporters but hoped to do so in the future.

“DOD is working to establish procedures for granting press access to certain unclassified portions of the PRB hearings,” Alan Liotta, principal director for rule of law and detainee policy, wrote in a letter to Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group that requested access.

“Although it will not be possible to implement these procedures in time for the first PRB hearing, our goal is to implement them in time for subsequent hearings,” Liotta said.

President Obama issued an executive order in 2011 to create the Periodic Review Board in order to review detainees’ cases, as part of the administration’s efforts to close the detention facility. The Pentagon announced in October that the review board had started operating.

The Obama administration’s review is similar to a detainee review process during the George W. Bush administration, where the unclassified sessions were open to observers.

The Miami Herald, which first reported that the review hearing would closed this week, reported that the Pentagon’s new envoy for closing Guantánamo, Paul Lewis, was surprised there weren’t plans ready to accommodate the media for the hearings.

Liotta wrote to Human Rights Watch that the Pentagon is preparing a website for the reviews that will include unclassified transcripts of the proceedings and a declassified transcript of the detainees’ statements.