No, we can’t: Bagram detainees without habeas corpus
Several informations can be found on this shameful issue. I have picked a few…
‘No US rights’ for Bagram inmates (BBC News, 21 – II – 2009)
Detainees being held at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot use US courts to challenge their detention, the US says.
The justice department ruled that some 600 so-called enemy combatants at Bagram have no constitutional rights. Most have been arrested in Afghanistan on suspicion of waging a terrorist war against the US.
The move has disappointed human rights lawyers who had hoped the Obama administration would take a different line to that of George W Bush.
Prof Barbara Olshansky, the lead counsel in a legal challenge on behalf of four Bagram detainees, told the BBC the justice department’s decision not to reform the rules was both surprising and “enormously disappointing”.
The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Washington says the move has angered human rights lawyers, with one saying the new White House was endorsing the view of the old one, that prisons could be created and run outside the law.
It is certainly evidence that having set the tone for his administration by announcing plans to close Guantanamo Bay, Mr Obama intends to adopt a much more cautious approach to the problem of detainees held elsewhere by the US military, our correspondent says.
Last year, the US Supreme Court gave suspects held at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the right to challenge their detention. Following that ruling, petitions were filed at a Washington district court on behalf of four detainees at Bagram. The judge then gave the new administration an opportunity to refine the rules on appeals.
In a two-sentence filing, justice department lawyers said the new administration had decided not to change the government’s position. “Having considered the matter, the government adheres to its previously articulated position,” said acting assistant Attorney General Michael Hertz in papers filed at the court.
The US justice department argues that Bagram differs from Guantanamo Bay because it is in an overseas war zone and prisoners there are being held as part of ongoing military action.
Prof Olshansky said the conditions at the Bagram facility, which is near the Afghan capital, Kabul, were worse than those at Guantanamo Bay, adding that there was a lack of due process available to detainees.
“The situation in Bagram is so far from anything like meeting the laws of war or the human rights treaties that we’re bound to,” she told the BBC. “There are no military hearings where the detainees can present evidence,” she added. “Torture has led to homicides there that have been admitted by the US.”
“It’s quite a severe situation, and yet the US is planning a $60m new prison to hold 1,100 more people there.”
The US military considers Bagram detainees unlawful combatants who can be detained for as long as they are deemed a threat to Afghan national security.
Obama draws fire for ‘terror’ detainee moves (France 24, 22 – II – 2009)
by Lucile MALANDAIN
Despite President Barack Obama’s moves to ban torture and close Guantanamo Bay, human rights advocates are angry some policies toward “terror” detainees do not depart enough from those of the previous administration.
Three announcements on Friday had rights advocates and lawyers questioning whether the Obama administration was continuing the policies of George W. Bush, which provoked outrage around the world.
A Pentagon report on the Guantanamo detention camp, which was ordered by Obama, drew a hail of fire for claiming that conditions for inmates are in line with Geneva Conventions and other legal obligations.
The report’s conclusion contrasted sharply with claims made by lawyers who regularly visit detainees at the remote prison at a US Naval base in Cuba.
Even before the report’s release, the American Civil Liberties Union criticized it as a “whitewash” of alleged abuses of detainees under Bush.
“Candidate Obama himself acknowledged that Guantanamo was a violation of domestic and international law. That’s why the reported review, sweeping the abusive Bush policies under the rug, is so troubling,” said ACLU executive director Anthony Romero.
Amnesty International also questioned the report’s accuracy. Director Tom Parker said in a statement that it “comes as no surprise” because the review was not done by an independent monitoring body.
In another policy declaration Friday that one detainee advocate described as “deeply disappointing,” Obama backed Bush positions on prisoner rights at Bagram — a Afghan detention facility.
The ruling followed a hearing for four Bagram inmates by a US District Court in Washington last month, seeking the same rights accorded to prisoners at Guantanamo, leading to a flood of appeals in Washington courts from Guantanamo inmates challenging their detentions.
US District Court judge John Bates gave the Obama administration a February 20 deadline to indicate whether it intended to “refine” the positions of the Bush administration on the Bagram detainee cases and “to provide input regarding the definition of ‘enemy combatant.'”
In a two-sentence statement from the Justice Department, Obama’s administration said “the government adheres to its previously articulated position” ensures the facility’s estimated 600 prisoners would not be able to challenge their detention in US courts.
Attorneys representing the detainees reacted with dismay at the news.
“The decision by the Obama administration to adhere to a position that has contributed to making our country a pariah around the world for its flagrant disregard of people’s human rights is deeply disappointing,” Barbara Olshansky, lead counsel for three of the four detainees, told AFP.
“We are trying to remain hopeful that the message being conveyed is that the new administration is still working on its position regarding the applicability of the laws of war, the Geneva Conventions and international human rights treaties that apply to everyone in detention there.”
Obama has not indicated what he plans to do about Bagram detainees or whether he would go forward with a planned 60-million-dollar expansion of the prison.
Obama’s appointment, meanwhile, of former Bush Justice Department official Matthew Olsen to head a “Guantanamo Detainee Review Task Force” received a lukewarm reception.
The task force will help determine the fate of the camp’s more than 240 remaining prisoners; whether they can be transferred or released, or prosecuted. The difficult third category holds those prisoners deemed too dangerous to be let go, but for whom the government may claim to be impossible to prosecute.
In 2006, Olsen became head of the Department’s National Security Division, and has a long career as a federal prosecutor, including for the Bush administration.
Olsen’s appointment “may bode well for a fair review” of detainee cases, Fordham law professor Martha Rayner told AFP Saturday.
Hopefully, Rayner said, Olsen “will not accept the myth that there are men at Guantanamo who are too dangerous to be released, but cannot be prosecuted because there is insufficient evidence.”
Very Bad News: Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base Will Be Obama’s Guantanamo (AlterNet, 22 – II – 2009)
By Stephen Foley, The Independent
The Afghan air base is to undergo a $60 million expansion, allowing it to hold five times as many prisoners as remain at Gitmo.
Less than a month after signing an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, President Barack Obama has quietly agreed to keep denying the right to trial to hundreds more terror suspects held at a makeshift camp in Afghanistan that human rights lawyers have dubbed “Obama’s Guantanamo.”
In a single-sentence answer filed with a Washington court, the administration dashed hopes that it would immediately rip up Bush-era policies that have kept more than 600 prisoners in legal limbo and in rudimentary conditions at the Bagram air base, north of Kabul.
Now, human rights groups say they are becoming increasingly concerned that the use of extra-judicial methods in Afghanistan could be extended rather than curtailed under the new U.S. administration. The air base is about to undergo a $60 million expansion that will double its size, meaning it can house five times as many prisoners as remain at Guantanamo.
Apart from staff at the International Red Cross, human rights groups and journalists have been barred from Bagram, where former prisoners say they were tortured by being shackled to the ceiling of isolation cells and deprived of sleep.
The base became notorious when two Afghan inmates died after the use of such techniques in 2002, and although treatment and conditions have been improved since then, the Red Cross issued a formal complaint to the U.S. government in 2007 about harsh treatment of some prisoners held in isolation for months.
While the majority of the estimated 600 prisoners are believed to be Afghan, an unknown number — perhaps several dozen — have been picked up from other countries.
One of the detainees who passed through the Afghan prison was Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who is expected to return to the UK this week after his release from Guantanamo Bay. Mr. Mohamed’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, head of a legal charity called Reprieve, called President Obama’s strategy “the Bagram bait and switch,” where the administration was trumpeting the closure of a camp housing 242 prisoners, while scaling up the Bagram base to house 1,100 more.
“Guantanamo Bay was a diversionary tactic in the ‘War on Terror’,” said the lawyer. “Totting up the prisoners around the world — held by the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, the prison ships and Diego Garcia, or held by U.S. proxies in Jordan, Egypt and Morocco — the numbers dwarf Guantanamo. There are still perhaps as many as 18,000 people in legal black holes. Mr. Obama should perhaps be offered more than a month to get the American house in order. However, this early sally from the administration underlines another message: it is far too early for human rights advocates to stand on the USS Abraham Lincoln and announce, ‘Mission Accomplished.'”
Four non-Afghan detainees at Bagram are fighting a legal case in Washington to be given the same access to the U.S. court system that was granted to the inmates of Guantanamo Bay by a controversial Supreme Court decision last year. The Bush administration was fighting their claim.
Two days into his presidency, Mr. Obama promised to shut Guantanamo within a year in an effort to restore America’s moral standing in the world and to prosecute the struggle against terrorism “in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals.” But on the same day, the judge in the Bagram case said that the order “indicated significant changes to the government’s approach to the detention, and review of detention, of individuals currently held at Guantanamo Bay” and that “a different approach could impact the court’s analysis of certain issues central to the resolution” of the Bagram cases as well. Judge John Bates asked the new administration if it wanted to “refine” its stance.
The response, filed by the Department of Justice late on Friday, came as a crushing blow to human rights campaigners. “Having considered the matter, the government adheres to its previously articulated position,” it said.
Tina Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network, the New York human rights organisation representing the detainees, warned last night that “by leaving Bagram open, the administration turns the closure of Guantanamo into essentially a hollow and symbolic gesture.”
She said: “Without reconsidering the underlying policy, which has led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the indefinite detention of hundreds of people all these years, then we are simply returning to the status quo. The exact same thing that had the world up in arms has been going on at Bagram since even before Guantanamo.
“People have been tortured to the point that they have died; it is a rallying cry for those who oppose the U.S. actions in Afghanistan; it is not strategic for the U.S.; and, more importantly, holding people indefinitely, regardless of who they are and regardless of the facts, is completely inconsistent with everything we stand for as a country.”
The Department of Justice would only say that the legal briefs in the Washington case “speak for themselves.” It says Bagram is a special case because, unlike Guantanamo, it is sited within a theatre of war.
Mr. Obama has pushed out the wider questions about the U.S. policy on detaining terror suspects and supporters of the Taliban in Afghanistan until the summer, ordering a review that will take six months to complete.
The administration is weighing the likely increase in prisoners from an expanded fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, against the international perception that it is embedding extra-judicial detention into its policies for years to come.
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