[JURIST] Nine Afghan witnesses have claimed that they were held and tortured in a secret US prison at the Bagram Air Base [official website; JURIST news archive] in Afghanistan, according to a BBC report Thursday. The witnesses say that they were allegedly captured by American forces and taken to a secret location where they were abused and interrogated [BBC report], then later transported to an official detention facility in Parwan, a new prison recently opened [JURIST report] at the edge of Bagram Air Base. Torture allegations include sleep deprivation, disorientation, beating, and humiliation tactics. The report comes a few weeks after US President Barack Obama made a surprise visit [press release] to the base in Afghanistan. The new US prison has room for 1,400 detainees, is part of the Obama administration's wider efforts to improve its Afghan detainee system [JURIST news archive], and will eventually be controlled by the Afghan government later this year [JURIST report]. Rights groups have previously called on the Obama administration to make sure its detention policy conforms to international law [press release]. Despite the alleged witness accounts of torture [The Nation report], the US government continues to deny the existence of secret prisons in Afghanistan.
Alleged prisoner abuse linked to the war on terror in Afghanistan has received international attention. Last week, a retired Canadian military officer who served in Afghanistan said that Canadian soldiers believed that prisoners may have been abused [Globe and Mail report] after being transferred to prison facilities in Afghanistan. Human rights groups have also criticized military procedures in the country. Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed habeas corpus petitions [JURIST report] on behalf of four detainees held at Bagram Air Base, claiming that none of the men has engaged in hostile behavior directed at the US, nor are they members of groups that purport to do so. In January, 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 [JURIST reports] by the ACLU last September. Prisoners at Bagram have launched previous habeas corpus challenges [JURIST report] in US courts but thus far have been less successful than those held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive].