Government Should Make Bagram Documents Public, Says ACLU
Group Files FOIA Request For Records About Detention And Treatment Of Prisoners At Afghanistan Detention Center
NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union today asked the Obama administration
to make public records pertaining to the detention and treatment of
prisoners held at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. The ACLU filed a
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records pertaining to the
number of people currently detained at Bagram and their names,
citizenship, place of capture and length of detention. The ACLU is also
seeking records pertaining to the process afforded those prisoners to
challenge their detention and designation as "enemy combatants."
"The U.S. government's detention of
hundreds of prisoners at Bagram has been shrouded in complete secrecy.
Bagram houses far more prisoners than Guantánamo, in reportedly worse
conditions and with an even less meaningful process for challenging
their detention, yet very little information about the Bagram facility
or the prisoners held there has been made public," said Melissa
Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project.
"Without transparency, we can't be sure that we're doing the right
thing – or even holding the right people – at Bagram."
Recent news reports suggest that the
U.S. government is detaining more than 600 individuals at Bagram,
including not only Afghan citizens captured in Afghanistan but also an
unknown number of foreign nationals captured thousands of miles from
Afghanistan and brought to Bagram. Some of these prisoners have been
detained for as long as six years without access to counsel, and only
recently have been permitted any contact with their families. At least
two Bagram prisoners have died while in U.S. custody, and Army
investigators concluded that the deaths were homicides.
"When prisoners are in American
custody and under American control, no matter the location, our values
and commitment to the rule of law are at stake," said Jonathan Hafetz,
staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "Now that
President Obama has taken the positive step of ordering Guantánamo shut
down, it is critical that we don't permit ‘other Gitmos' to continue
The ACLU's request is addressed to the Departments of Defense, Justice and State and the CIA.
A federal judge recently ruled that
three prisoners being held by the U.S. at Bagram can challenge their
detention in U.S. courts, in habeas corpus suits brought by the
International Justice Network, Stanford Law School's International
Human Rights Clinic and the National Litigation Project of Yale Law
School's Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic. The
prisoners, who were captured outside of Afghanistan and are not Afghan
citizens, have been held there for more than six years without charge
or access to counsel. The Obama administration is appealing the ruling.
The ACLU's FOIA request, including a complete list of documents being requested, is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.