Federal Court Rules Bagram Prisoners Can't Challenge Their Detention In U.S. Courts
Decision Gives Government Unchecked Power To Detain Individuals Indefinitely Without Due Process Or Transparency, Says ACLU
NEW YORK - A
federal court of appeals ruled today that three prisoners who are being
held by the United States at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot
challenge their detention in U.S. courts. The non-Afghan prisoners,
some of whom were captured outside of Afghanistan far from any
battlefield and "rendered" or transferred to Bagram, have been held at
the detention facility for more than seven years without access to a
court or counsel. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed habeas
cases on behalf of several Bagram detainees and a Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for records relating to the detention,
rendition and treatment of prisoners held there. The ACLU's Bagram
habeas cases were not addressed by the court of appeals ruling today;
the cases at issue were brought by the International Justice Network,
the organization coordinating Bagram habeas litigation.
"Today's decision ratifies the dangerous principle that the U.S.
government has unchecked power to capture people anywhere in the world,
unilaterally declare them enemy combatants and subject them to
indefinite military detention with no judicial review and little to no
process for challenging their detention in any forum. The rule embraced
by the court of appeals permits the executive branch to manipulate
whether its actions will or will not be subject to judicial scrutiny,
simply by choosing whether to fly a prisoner to Bagram or Guantánamo,"
said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security
Project. "Locking up people who were picked up far from any battlefield
for years without telling them why, without giving them access to
lawyers and without giving them a fair chance to contest the evidence
against them is unlawful and un-American."
In response to the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit for records related to the
detention, rendition and treatment of prisoners at Bagram, the Defense
Department in January released for the first time a list of the people
imprisoned at the notorious detention facility. The list contains the
names of 645 prisoners who were detained there as of September 2009,
but other vital information including their citizenship, how long they
have been held, in what country they were captured and the
circumstances of their capture has been withheld. The ACLU is
challenging the withholding of this information in court.
The government also continues to withhold information about the
implementation of its new detainee status review procedures as well as
information about a separate "secret jail" on the base, reportedly run
by either the Joint Special Operations Command or the Defense
Intelligence Agency, where detainees maintain they have been abused and
guards and interrogators may not be subject to the same rules that
apply at the main Bagram detention facility.
"Today's decision makes the need for greater transparency at Bagram all
the more pressing. The Obama administration has instituted a new
military process for determining whether prisoners should be released
but has not disclosed any information about the implementation of the
process, such as transcripts of the new Detainee Review Board
proceedings," said Goodman. "The military disclosed this kind of
information about Guantánamo proceedings and should do the same for the
Bagram proceedings. The military should also come clean about the
secret 'second' prison at Bagram Air Base the Red Cross confirmed
existed last week."
More information about the ACLU's Bagram FOIA lawsuit is available online at: www.aclu.org/national-
More information about the ACLU's Bagram habeas cases is at: www.aclu.org/national-
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.