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Future of Guantanamo Bay detention center remains up in the air

Posted April 18, 2019 5:28 p.m. EDT
Updated April 18, 2019 6:19 p.m. EDT

A federal appeals court has dealt another blow in the death-penalty case involving a suicide bombing attack 19 years ago because of questions about the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.

Muhammed Al-Nashiri is the man considered the mastermind behind the attack on the USS Cole warship in 2000 in which 17 members of the Navy were killed.

The court has vacated orders because of problems with the judge responsible at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

At Camp Justice, located at Guantanamo Bay, several tents have been erected where people who are concerned about what's occurring at the trials are staying. The trials can take years.

Cameras are not permitted inside the courtroom.

The Guantanamo Military Commission has charged 11 of the 40 men being held there, and 29 have not been charged.

All of the defendants are considered law of war detainees.

"We brought people here to Guantanamo as law of war detainees, using international law of war, which says you can detain combatants and keep them off the battle field until such time as the conflict is concluded and they can be returned safely," said Wendy Kelly, court administrator.

The detainees now range in age from 38 to 71.

There are medical and other challenges faced by the command at Guantanamo Bay by the aging detainee population, who are housed at a facility that was built very quickly to hold them.

"The soil studies weren't done properly, and some of the facilities are literally falling in," said Rear Admiral John Ring, the Guantanamo Bay commander. "The electrical systems have problems, sewage systems have problems, (and) there's cracks (and) mold."

He has asked the Trump administration for money to the make needed repairs.

While those requests are pending, the Guantanamo Military Commission continues to struggle to move cases through the court system that can tried only outside of the United States.

"The Detainee Treatment Act prevents you from bringing any of the detainees into the United States," Kelly said. "Assuming that was lifted, a decision would have to be made at higher levels of government."

That means there are three things that can happen to the 40 detainees: They can go to trial, continue to be held or be released. It appears that a final decision may be years away.