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New US guidelines for Afghan prison will allow prisoners to challenge detention

[JURIST] The Obama administration is preparing to issue new guidelines for the US detention facility at Bagram Air Base [JURIST news archive; GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in Afghanistan that would allow detainees to oppose their indefinite incarceration, according to media reports Sunday. The guidelines [NYT report] are expected to affect all of the approximately 600 prisoners by providing members of the US military who would be able to gather classified evidence and question witnesses on behalf of any detainee challenging their detention. The military officials would not be lawyers, but they are expected to give detainees, some of whom have been held for over five years without charges, better representation before military-appointed review boards. The changes come amidst ongoing protests [JURIST report] by prisoners. Hundreds of Bagram detainees have been refusing shower and exercise time and have ceased participation in a family visits and teleconferences program set up by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [advocacy website].

In July, a US military study commissioned after a critical January report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan [official website] recommended [JURIST report] a complete overhaul of both the US-run and Afghan-run prisons in Afghanistan. Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, former deputy commanding general for detainee operations for the Multi National Force–Iraq [official website], recommended separating extremists from the rest of the prison population to avoid militant recruiting within prisons, as well as improving training for Afghan guards, prosecutors and judges. Extremists would be housed in a separate facility, partially financed by the US, and the remaining detainees would be provided with vocational training. Officials have reported that some of Stone's recommendations are already being implemented in a new facility scheduled to open this fall that will house about 600 detainees.

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