Rights group urges US government to reform Afghanistan detainee policy

[JURIST] The US should reform its detention policy [press release] at Bagram Air Base [JURIST news archive] in Afghanistan in order to combat counterinsurgency, according to a report [text, PDF] released Thursday by Human Rights First (HRF) [advocacy website]. HRF called on the governments of the US and Afghanistan to reach an agreement that "set[s] forth grounds and procedures for detention in accordance with international law." The report also urged the US to make sure that detainees have opportunities to challenge the lawfulness of their detentions. The report's author, Sahr MuhammedAlly, said:


Successful counterinsurgency depends on US actions being seen as fair, humane, and beneficial to the security of the Afghan people, whose cooperation is needed to ensure a stable Afghanistan. To achieve this goal, the US government should take further steps now to support US goals of bolstering Afghan sovereignty, increase the capacity of the Afghans to handle detentions on their own, and to establish legitimacy of US detentions in the eyes of the Afghan people by reducing the risks of arbitrary detentions, mistaken captures, and to ensure detainees a more meaningful way to challenge their detention.

HRW also released a second report [text, PDF] Thursday outlining the detention and trials of detainees interviewed in April 2009.

In September, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking information related to the treatment of prisoners at Bagram, citing fears that is becoming the "new Guantanamo." Earlier that month, the Obama administration issued new guidelines [JURIST report] allowing Bagram detainees to challenge their indefinite incarceration. Detainees will have access to members of the US military who would be able to gather classified evidence and question witnesses on behalf of any detainee challenging his detention. The military officials would not be lawyers, but they are expected to provide detainees, some of whom have been held for more than 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].

 

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