The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Laurie Gindin Beacham, (212) 549-2666;

Obama Administration Continues Indefinite Detention Policy for Bagram Prisoners

Government Should Not Maintain "Other Gitmos," Says ACLU


The Obama administration told a federal court late Friday that military
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 Guantanamo 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
Guantanamo, 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 Guantanamo, 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 Guantanamo, Bagram
holds individuals from all over the world, including locations where
there are no combat operations taking place. Like Guantanamo, 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 Guantanamo, there are
well-documented reports of serious prisoner mistreatment and torture at
Bagram. But in some ways, Bagram is perhaps even worse than Guantanamo
because there is less judicial oversight, process and public scrutiny.

"If we've learned anything from
Guantanamo, 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 Guantanamo, and we need
judicial oversight to ensure that Guantanamo doesn't happen again.
Closing Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo,
and Mohamed was recently released. Mohammed Jawad, whom the ACLU
represents in a Guantanamo habeas corpus challenge, was also held at
Bagram and subjected to abusive interrogations.

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666