US to retain control of detainees at Afghanistan prison

It was reported July 9 in the Times of London that the US will retain control of non-Afghan detainees at Parwan Detention Center at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, despite plans to transfer control of the facility to the Afghan government in two months. Under the terms of the agreement with Kabul, the Afghan government is to assume control of all prisons in the country, including the Bagram facility. The US, however, will retain control over about 50 non-Afghan detainees in a separate US-run section of the compound, with US officials claiming the agreement does not cover foreign nationals. The detainees apparently will be held without access to legal assistance or prospect of release. Such quarantining of prisoners and officials’ attempts to distinguish between “prison” and “detention facility” have reportedly led many commentators and human rights activists to condemn the deal, questioning its legitimacy. The Bagram facility has widely become known as “the other Guantánamo” since its opening in 2009.

In 2010 the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed the existence of a secret US detention facility at Bagram, after nine Afghan witnesses claimed that they were at Bagram. The witnesses say that they were captured by US forces and taken to a secret prison at Bagram where they were held, interrogated and tortured, then later transported to the official detention facility in Parwan. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed habeas corpus petitions on behalf of four detainees held at Bagram, claiming that none of the men had engaged in hostile behavior directed at the US, nor were they members of groups that purport to do so. Earlier that year the US Department of Defense released a list of names of 645 prisoners detained at Bagram in response to a Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU in September 2009. Prisoners at Bagram have launched previous habeas corpus challenges in US courts but have been less successful than those held at Guantánamo Bay.

From Jurist, July 10. Used with permission.

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