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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 March, 2004, 03:14 GMT
Reviews for Guantanamo detainees
By Nick Childs
BBC Pentagon correspondent

 Guantanamo Bay detainees
Over 600 terror suspects are held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba
The Pentagon has unveiled plans for new military boards which will review whether detainees at Guantanamo Bay should continue to be held or released.

Detainees will be able to plead their cases but will not have access to a lawyer, the Pentagon says.

However, it is asking for public comments on its plans, which could still be altered.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld first outlined the proposal for these annual reviews last month.

These review panels are quite separate from the military commissions or tribunals being set up by the Pentagon to try prisoners for possible war crimes.

They appear to be a concession to the widespread criticism of the US policy on detainees.

But they also acknowledge that many of the 640 or so detainees currently at Guantanamo Bay could be held indefinitely without a trial.

Family submissions

The Pentagon's proposals are that panels of three military officers will consider at least once a year whether each of the detainees should continue to be held and will make recommendations to a senior Pentagon official.

Each of the detainees will be able to plead their case for release.

Their own governments and families may also submit information.

The detainees will have a military officer to assist them, but will not have access to a lawyer. The Pentagon says that is because these will not be criminal proceedings.

That in itself is likely to provoke controversy, but the Pentagon is, on this occasion, asking for comments from the public on what it says are still only draft proposals.

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