SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico June 10 —
Guantanamo officials are ready to provide a courtroom, a prison
and an execution chamber if the order comes to try terror suspects
at the base in Cuba, the mission commander said.
Although no new directive has been given and no plans have been
approved, a handful of experts are looking at what it will take to
try, imprison and, if need be, execute detainees accused of links to
Afghanistan's fallen Taliban regime or to the al-Qaida terror
"We have a number of plans that we work for short-term and
long-term strategies but that's all they are plans," Army Maj. Gen.
Geoffrey Miller said in a telephone interview Monday.
Isolated on Cuba's eastern tip and out of the jurisdiction of
U.S. civilian courts, Guantanamo is a likely location for U.S.
Last month, officials named Army Col. Frederic Borch III the
chief prosecutor and Air Force Col. Will Gunn as chief defense
lawyer for the proposed trials. The Pentagon has listed 18 war
crimes and eight other offenses that could be tried, including
terrorist acts, and has issued rules for the tribunals.
Borch said he was looking at prosecuting at least 10 possible
cases before a tribunal.
Some 680 detainees from 42 countries are in Guantanamo,
categorized as unlawful combatants by the U.S. government. It has
refused demands from human rights organizations to recognize them as
prisoners of war. They have no constitutional rights as non-U.S.
citizens being held outside U.S. territory, and none have been
formally charged or allowed access to attorneys.
The cases would be decided by a panel of three to seven military
officers who act as both judge and jury. Convictions could be handed
down by a majority vote; a decision to sentence a defendant to death
would have to be unanimous.
Some civil liberties advocates have criticized the process.
"Any further movement in the direction of trying these men in
commissions that could have the power to carry out death sentences
is cause for great concern," Vienna Colucci of Amnesty
International's Washington D.C. office said Monday.
Miller said renovations on a building being considered as a
courtroom began in March and likely will be completed next month.
The building is being rewired and could be used as a courthouse with
facilities for media and military officers.
There also are plans to build a permanent modular detention
facility, to imprison detainees who might be sentenced to indefinite
terms, and an execution chamber should any be sentenced to death, he
"We're getting ready so we won't be starting from scratch,"
Miller said, speaking while on a visit to Washington D.C.
About five people have been drafting several plans for the last
six months, he said. It was unclear how much money it would take to
sustain such a permanent mission.
After the detention center opened in January 2002, Secretary of
Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld called the detainees "among the most
dangerous, best trained, vicious killers on the face of the Earth."
But, after lengthy interrogation, many are thought to be low-level
former Taliban fighters and unlikely prospects for commission
On the Net:
Rules for military tribunals:
|Construction workers take to the
rooftops of Camp Delta as assembly of the new units continues
in this April 7, 2002 file photo at the Guantanamo Bay Naval
Base in Cuba. Guantanamo officials are ready to provide a
courtroom, a prison and an execution chamber if the order
comes to try terror suspects at the base in Cuba, the mission
commander said Monday, June 9, 2003. (AP Photo/Beth A.
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