US to maintain control of foreign, new detainees at Bagram Air Base

Government officials from both the US and Afghanistan have said that the US military will maintain control over foreign detainees at Bagram Air Base for the indefinite future, and will also continue holding and screening newly captured Afghans. According to the New York Times, the US commitment to the control and maintenance of dozens of foreign prisoners comes despite preparing to hand over its detention operations to the Afghan government on Sept. 9, as agreed to in a pact in March in the prelude to the countries’ Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement (text, PDF). Given that the March pact covered only the 3,100 Afghan detainees at the time of its enactment, there has been relative uncertainty as to the fate of the additional 600 detainees added to Bagram since the signing. While concerns of arbitrary detentions have been raised  by the Afghan government, namely that the agreement’s no-trial detention system is contrary to Afghanistan’s constitution (text, PDF), William Lietzau, the Pentagon’s top detainee policy official, maintains that the system is lawful as long as the war continues. The Afghan government has refused to ratify the Bagram agreement.

In July it was reported that the US would retain control of about 50 non-Afghan detainees at Bagram’s Parwan Detention Center. At that time the US again had to defend its position by asserting that its agreement with Afghanistan did not cover foreign nationals. The detainees have been held without access to legal assistance, prompting some human rights activists to question the deal’s legitimacy and expand upon the criticism that the Bagram facility has been “the other Guantánamo” since its opening in 2009. The plan for Afghanistan to take over the US military’s Parwan Detention Center was crafted in January with a goal of transferring all responsibilities to the Afghan government within six months.

From Jurist, Sept. 6. Used with permission.

  1. US judge rules against Bagram detainees
     A federal judge in Washington DC on Oct. 19 rejected a new effort by detainees at Bagram air base in Afghanistan to challenge their imprisonment in the US courts. District Judge John Bates had ruled three years ago that Bagram detainees should have access to US courts, as Guantánamo Bay prisoners do. But the DC Circuit Count of Appeals overturned his decision in 2010. In amended petitions for review in the US courts, the detainees cited new evidence—charging, among other things, that the US was attempting to avoid jurisdiction in its own courts by detaining petitioners at Bagram. But Bates found that none of the new evidence undermines the basis of the appeals court decision, and dismissed the petitions. Bates wrote that the appeals court found “critical problems with allowing detainees at such a site” to bring petitions seeking their release, citing the fact that, unlike Guantánamo, it is in a war zone. (AP, NYT, BLT, Oct. 19)