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Ex-Detainees 'Allege Abuse at US Afghan Base'


A US soldier carries an US flag during a ceremony at Bagram air base, about 50 kms north of Kabul, May 2009. Former detainees of the Bagram air base have alleged a catalogue of abuse at the US military facility, the BBC reported Wednesday, after a two-month investigation. (AFP photo)

LONDON  - Former detainees of the Bagram air base in Afghanistan have alleged a catalogue of abuse at the US military facility, the BBC reported Wednesday, after a two-month investigation.

Ex-inmates listed mistreatment including beatings, sleep deprivation and being threatened with dogs at the base north of Kabul, said the broadcaster.

"They did things that you would not do against animals, let alone to humans," said one former detainee, identifed as Dr. Khandan, while another described having a gun put to his head and being threatened with death.

The detainees were held in Bagram between 2002 and 2008. They were all accused of belonging to or helping Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but no charges were brought and some received apologies when released.

The Pentagon denies the allegations, made in interviews with 27 former detainees, the BBC said, adding that only two of those questioned reported having been treated well.

It quoted a spokesman for US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Mark Wright, as saying conditions at Bagram "meet international standards for care and custody".

"There have been well-documented instances where that policy was not followed and service members have been held accountable for their actions in those cases," he added in a statement.

But a British legal rights lobby group, Reprieve, said the allegations confirm its concerns.

"Bagram is the new Guantanamo Bay," it said in a statement, urging the British government to take action over two Pakistanis it claims Britain helped render to Bagram from Iraq.

The BBC noted that US President Barack Obama vowed to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba immediately after taking office in January.

Unlike Guantanamo detainees, inmates in Bagram have no access to lawyers and they cannot challenge their detention, it said.

"The legal black hole in Bagram underlines the British government's moral black hole when it comes to rendering two Pakistani prisoners there in 2004," said Reprieve chief Clive Stafford Smith.

"As we have said all along, beating people and holding them incommunicado is not humane, safe and secure," he added.


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