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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/21/12

For Prisoners in Afghanistan, Torture is the Old Normal

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According to the organization, despite the Obama Administration's plan to withdraw troops by 2014, the U.S. government has no plans to shutter the Bagram detention facility anytime soon. In fact, after having quadrupled the number of detainees held there since President Obama took office, defense department officials recently acknowledged that they are doubling the prison's capacity.  It currently holds about 2,600 detainees.

As Human Rights First explained in a May 2011 report following an on-the-ground investigation in Afghanistan earlier this year, the U.S. military is failing to provide detainees at the detention facility at Bagram a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves against charges that they supported the Taliban or otherwise participated in attacks against U.S. forces.

According to the organization, despite the Obama Administration's plan to withdraw troops by 2014, the U.S. government has no plans to shutter the Bagram detention facility anytime soon. In fact, after having quadrupled the number of detainees held there since President Obama took office, defense department officials recently acknowledged that they are doubling the prison's capacity.  It currently holds about 2,600 detainees.

Prisoners are not allowed to have legal representation, and have no right to see the evidence against them.  Although they receive rudimentary hearings where they are allowed to make a statement, based on our direct observation of these hearings, we believe they do not meet even the minimum international standards of due process, and do not allow the U.S. military to determine whether the detainee has actually participated in the insurgency or poses a danger to U.S. forces and therefore needs to be imprisoned.

In its report, HRF set forth specific recommendations that the U.S. military can implement immediately to remedy the situation. These include providing military lawyers for the detainees at their hearings, and de-classifying more of the evidence used against the detainees, so that they can meaningfully respond to the allegations.

Eviatar concluded that the recent 10-year anniversary of US and NATO operations in Afghanistan should have been a good time for the United States to re-assess its detention strategy there.

In an HRF report written by Eviatar, she linked the growth of the Bagram facility to the growth of the detention problems confronting both Afghan and US jailers.

She said that since President Obama took office, the number of prisoners held by the U.S. in Afghanistan has almost tripled-from 600 in 2008 to 1700 in 2011. The U.S. Prison at Bagram now holds almost ten times as many detainees as are being held at Guantanamo Bay. Prisoners at the U.S.-run Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan now have the right to appear before a
board of military officers to plead for their release and challenge the claims that they are "enemy belligerents" fighting U.S. forces. But prisoners still do not have the right to see the evidence being used against them, or the right to a lawyer to represent them.

"Failure to provide due process to Afghan detainees is angering the local population and making Afghans less willing to cooperate with or trust U.S. forces.  It is ultimately a counter-productive strategy that harms U.S. national security," Eviatar noted.

She concluded: "It is unconscionable that ten years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the United States still does not provide the minimum level of due process to its detainees there." Eviatar, who observed the hearings given to detainees in Afghanistan earlier last year, said, "The current system does not adequately distinguish between innocent men and those who pose a real danger to U.S. forces. Unfortunately, this is more likely to fuel the insurgency than to stop it."

 

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WILLIAM FISHER Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)
 
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