Two Weeks in a Row: Periodic Review Boards Revitalized?

Yesterday the Guantanamo Bay Periodic Review Board (PRB), established by President Obama to determine whether prisoners pose a threat to the United States or should be released, convened to assess the case of Saeed Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah Sarem Jarabh, now slated for indefinite detention.

Completing the PRB process is essential to the president’s goal of closing the detention facility before his term ends. At the current rate, reviews won’t be completed until 2018. But with two sessions in as many weeks, the pace may be picking up.

Jarabh, a Yemeni, is the 11th prisoner evaluated under the PRB process. He has been held at Guantanamo for 12 years and 11 months.

Yesterday’s hearing was broadcast via a grainy video feed to a facility in Arlington, Virginia. There, observers from the media and other groups watched the public portions of the hearing. The rest of the hearing is secret reportedly to eliminate the risk of inadvertent release of classified information.

Jarabh was seated along with his two military-assigned personal representatives and an interpreter. He bowed his head or nodded in apparent affirmation as his personal representative read an opening statement, which indicates that his English studies during his detention have been successful.

Apart from the scripted readings, the committee also explained to Jarabh that the proceeding is only for determining whether he poses a continuing threat to the United States, and is not a legal determination of his status as a detainee.

Although the public portion of the hearing I witnessed was only a small representation of the full PRB process, the utility of the process itself cannot be denied.

The president’s goal of establishing a method to periodically review a detainee’s threat to the United States is crucial to eventually closing Guantanamo and to eliminating the need for indefinite detentions. The fact that two detainees have been evaluated in two weeks shows new commitment to ramping up the review process.

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Published on January 28, 2015

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