Annual review boards continue: OARDEC teams review detainee status

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Annual review boards continue: OARDEC teams review detainee status  (2005) 
by Jeshua Nace

Originally published on Friday, June 10, 2005 in The Wire.

Transcribed from page 3 of on February 23rd, 2008.

Navy Capt. Eric G. Kaniut is the officer in charge of OARDEC boards.

Annual review boards continue: OARDEC teams review detainee status

By Spc. Jeshua Nace
JTF-GTMO Public Affairs Office

An order established by Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in May of last year called for an immediate implementation of an Annual Review Board for detainees here. The review process assesses whether each detainee held by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo should be released, transferred or should continue to be detained.

The order specifies that each enemy combatant being detained will have a formal opportunity to explain why he believes he should be released. The ARB is comprised of at least three military officers, and each detainee is provided with a military officer to assist him in his appearance at the board.

The reviewing board considers written information from the family and the national government of the enemy combatant. The recommendation will be based upon all this information, with additional submissions by other U.S. government agencies.

The initial assessment of detainees comes directly from military officers in the field, and/or foreign nations that took custody of the detainees.

The conduct of ARBs is the responsibility of the Office for Administrative Review of the Detention of Enemy Combatants (OARDEC).

“OARDEC was established about a year ago by the Secretary of Defense, who at that time, determined that there needs to be a review process for all the detainees at Guantanamo to determine which ones here still constitute a threat,” said Navy Capt. Eric Kaniut, officer in charge of OARDEC boards.

The law of war permits the detention of enemy combatants until the end of an armed conflict. It permits the detention to prevent the enemy from rejoining the conflict.

Since the War on Terrorism is an unconventional war, with its leaders in shadows and its organization underground, the end of the conflict is a gray area.

“Last summer the Supreme Court made several rulings that determined that we had to stop doing the review boards and start a process to determine if they were enemy combatants or non-enemy combatants. In July we had to notify all the detainees present at the time that they were all going to a tribunal to determine if they were an enemy combatant or not. Through that, we determined that a number of those held were enemy combatants. By that definition, either they were Taliban or al-Qaida; or they carried a weapon against U.S. forces somewhere,” said Kanuit.

“If the reviewing board found that they were no longer enemy combatants, their names were given to the State Department. The State Department contacted their home countries to get them back,” said Kaniut. “If the home country accepts them back, we ask if they can guarantee the detainee won’t be tortured or abused in anyway. If that country can’t guarantee that, we won’t release them. We will have to find someone else who can guarantee that.”

The board will have to assess the current and potential threat posed by the detainee, then recommend to a high-level Department of Defense official whether the detainee will remain under the custody of the Joint Task Force.

Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy, Gordon R. England has been named as the official for the Annual Review Boards.

England has put together teams that are comprised of civilian and military employees that will develop an in-depth and comprehensive process to accelerate the review of detainee records.

“The reviewing board looks over one detainee at a time, and our mandate is to get all that are eligible done this year. Right now we are over 120 completed. Because of the tribunals, we couldn’t start until the beginning of April. Our goal is to complete 12 reviews a week. We currently have three teams set up right now. If we need four, five, or six teams, then we’ll go in that direction,” said Kaniut.

“This is a tribute to America, JTF, and our country as a whole, that we even consider doing this,” said Kaniut.