For Immediate Release
Obama Administration Continues Indefinite Detention Policy for Bagram Prisoners
Government Should Not Maintain "Other Gitmos," Says ACLU
detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their
detention. The move, which is a continuation of the Bush
administration's detention policy, comes in a lawsuit filed on behalf
of several prisoners who have been indefinitely detained at the Bagram
Air Force base for years without trial. The American Civil Liberties
Union calls on the new administration to reconsider this troubling
"The Obama administration did the
right thing by ordering Guantánamo closed. But a restoration of the
rule of law and American ideals cannot be achieved if we allow 'other
Gitmos' to be maintained around the globe," said Anthony D. Romero,
Executive Director of the ACLU. "Detainees at Bagram, like at
Guantánamo, are under U.S. control and custody. It is therefore the
responsibility of the U.S. to ensure that basic fundamental rights
apply there. As its review of detention facilities continues, we
strongly urge the Obama administration to reconsider this position."
The detention facility at Bagram was
set up by the U.S. military after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
Like Guantánamo, it was designed to be out of the reach of U.S. courts
- a legal black hole - during the so-called "war on terror," which
lacks geographical or durational boundaries. Like Guantánamo, Bagram
holds individuals from all over the world, including locations where
there are no combat operations taking place. Like Guantánamo, Bagram
holds terrorism suspects who were not captured on the battlefield and
has imprisoned victims of the Bush administration's illegal
extraordinary rendition program. And like with Guantánamo, there are
well-documented reports of serious prisoner mistreatment and torture at
Bagram. But in some ways, Bagram is perhaps even worse than Guantánamo
because there is less judicial oversight, process and public scrutiny.
"If we've learned anything from
Guantánamo, it's that U.S.-run indefinite detention facilities cannot
be beyond the reach of the courts, left only to the political branches
to oversee," said Romero. "It is not permissible for Bagram to be a
Constitution-free zone any more than it is for Guantánamo, and we need
judicial oversight to ensure that Guantánamo doesn't happen again.
Closing Guantánamo is not enough if we repeat its policies elsewhere."
In the landmark case Boumediene v. Bush,
the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration's position that the
detainees held at Guantánamo had no right to challenge the legality of
their detention in U.S. courts. That same right must be extended to the
roughly 600 detainees held in U.S. custody at Bagram, many of whom have
been held for years without access to legal counsel or the courts.
Three of the ACLU's clients in its
rendition lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan were at
some point held at Bagram: Bisher al-Rawi, Binyam Mohamed and Mohamed
Bashmilah. Al-Rawi and Mohamed were later transferred to Guantánamo,
and Mohamed was recently released. Mohammed Jawad, whom the ACLU
represents in a Guantánamo habeas corpus challenge, was also held at
Bagram and subjected to abusive interrogations.
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.