The US gave full control of Bagram Prison [official website] to Afghanistan on Monday, winding down US military presence in Afghanistan. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile] sought to regain control of the detention center in efforts to reclaim sovereignty [AFP report] over the country, as the US begins withdrawing troops from the region. The US was concerned that turning over the prison would put the secure detention of suspected Taliban and al Qaeda members at risk. The official handing over of control to Afghan authorities took place after an agreement was reached during a phone call [press release] between US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel [official website] and Karzai on Saturday. US Secretary of State John Kerry [official website] made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan in an attempt to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
The rights of Afghan detainees at Bagram has been a controversial issue. Last November Karzai said that US forces were capturing and holding Afghans in violation of a detainee transfer pact [JURIST report] and that US forces should turn over that responsibility to Karzai's forces. Karzai's statement urged Afghan officials to make efforts towards toward obtaining entire responsibility for Bagram prison. Listed abuses included Afghan detainees held by US forces despite Afghan rulings to the contrary and the continued arrest of Afghans by US forces. JURIST Guest Columnist Ken Roach recently discussed the issue of prisoners seeking substitute justice [JURIST op-ed] in the courts of other democracies. In September the US handed over Bagram [JURIST report] to Afghanistan but retained control over 600 prisoners.