For Immediate Release
Obama Administration Seeks To Deny Bagram Prisoners Access To U.S. Courts
Detainees In Afghan Prison Should Be Afforded Legal Right To Challenge Detention, Says ACLU
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has filed a brief with a federal appeals court
in Washington arguing that the approximately 600 detainees in U.S.
custody at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan are not entitled to have
their cases heard in U.S. courts. Some of the detainees at Bagram have
been held for up to six years with no meaningful opportunity to
challenge their detention, and there are some prisoners there who are
unconnected to the war in Afghanistan but who have been sent there from
locations around the world.
In June 2008, in the landmark case of Boumediene v. Bush,
the U.S. Supreme Court found that detainees at Guantánamo were entitled
to habeas corpus rights. In contravention of the principles established
in that ruling, the Obama administration is now arguing that these
rights do not apply at Bagram.
"Guantánamo was the Bush
administration's effort to do an end run around the Constitution, and
the Obama administration is now essentially using Bagram as a way to do
an end run around Guantánamo and the constitutional right of habeas
corpus found to apply there," said Jonathan Hafetz, a staff attorney
with the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project.
"Simply shipping detainees from around the world to an alternative
destination is not a solution and flouts the principles laid down by
the Supreme Court."
Detainees at the Bagram prison
include non-Afghans who were initially arrested and detained outside of
Afghanistan but who continue to be denied full legal rights because the
U.S. government chose to render them to Afghanistan. A federal judge
found that the ruling in Boumediene v. Bush
entitled at least three prisoners at Bagram to habeas rights. While
those three detainees were not seized in Afghanistan, there also should
be judicial review of the established process and standards for
detaining those who were captured in Afghanistan to ensure that they
comport with our Constitution and laws.
The government's appeal comes on the
heels of the administration's announcement that it would release
guidelines for allowing detainees at the prison greater opportunity to
challenge their detention, by assigning military representatives – not
lawyers – to detainees to assist them in challenging their detention
before a military-appointed review board. The new guidelines were
attached to the government's appellate brief.
"It would be tragic to leave the
stigma of Guantánamo behind only to have Bagram become the next legal
black hole for detainees," said Melissa Goodman, a staff attorney with
the ACLU National Security Project. "Since the Supreme Court declared
that prisoners in Guantánamo Bay have the right to habeas corpus, it
would appear that the government is attempting to use Bagram, instead,
as the new off-shore warehouse for indefinite detention. Guantánamo has
been a stain on this nation's reputation at home and abroad, and the
last thing we should be doing is creating another version of it
In April, the ACLU filed a Freedom
of Information Act (FOIA) request asking the Obama administration to
make public records pertaining to the detention and treatment of
prisoners held at Bagram. The government has not yet turned over the
More information about the ACLU's FOIA request is online at: www.aclu.org/bagram
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.