Friday, July 26, 2013

Bagram: The other Guantanamo...

The months-long hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay has returned the subject of indefinite detention to U.S. headlines this year, but that notorious island prison isn't the only place where detainees in the war on terror are being held indefinitely by the United States without charge. Around 60 non-Afghan nationals are currently being kept by the U.S. at the prison near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan – all without charge or trial – following the hand-over of around 3,000 Afghan prisoners to the Afghan government in March.

About two-thirds of the detainees, known as third country nationals, are Pakistani. Some of them have been held for nearly a decade, according to a lawyer who is fighting for his clients' freedom. Omran Belhadi is an attorney with the Justice Pakistan Project, based in Lahore, which represents 11 detainees currently held by the U.S. "They are being held without charge, trial or access to a lawyer, which constitutes a violation of international human rights law," says Belhadi. "Quite a few of them have been recommended for release by the U.S. government but remain stuck at Bagram, because the U.S. and Pakistani governments are failing to negotiate the terms of their repatriation."

Though the detainees at Bagram aren't mentioned often in the U.S., Chris Rogers, who focuses on conflict-related detention at the Open Society Foundations, says that the prison remains a problem for America's image in the Middle East. "For Afghans, Pakistanis and many others around the world, Bagram is a symbol of hypocrisy and injustice," says Rogers. "Ending the war in Afghanistan, and closing the chapter of war-on-terror detention that both Guantanamo and Bagram have come to symbolize, means the U.S. has to resolve detainees' cases and end their legal limbo." Full story...

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