The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Brenda Bowser Soder,,O -202/370-3323, C - 301/906-4460

Human Rights First Calls for Full Investigation of Bagram's 'Black Prison'

Says prompt ICRC access to all detainees is imperative safeguard against abuse


Human Rights First is calling for a full investigation of the
so-called "black prison" at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
Responding to allegations that teenagers held at the secret facility
were subjected to beatings, sexual abuse, and sleep deprivation during
incommunicado detention, the rights group called on Afghanistan
Commander Vice-Admiral Robert Harward and U.S. authorities to "conduct
a thorough investigation, not only into the truth of the allegations,
but if they are substantiated, into how and why the chain of command
either authorized or failed to prevent the abuses."

"These allegations raise serious questions about whether reforms
initiated by the Obama administration are being properly implemented
and about whether they are sufficient to end torture and detainee
abuse," the organization stated in a December 1 letter
to Vice-Admiral Harward. "If substantiated, the alleged conduct of
detaining authorities is in violation of U.S. law, including the
Detainee Treatment Act, and the 2006 Army Field Manual, which is
applicable to all U.S. government agencies. It is also in violation of
international law, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva
Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
and the Convention against Torture."

The letter stated that the results of any U.S. investigation and any
recommendations that follow must be made public to ensure that the
abuses, if substantiated, do not recur and that the perpetrators are
held accountable.

In addition, Human Rights First urged U.S. authorities to grant the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Afghan
Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) prompt access to all
detainees brought to Bagram Air Base. The letter to Vice-Admiral
Harward voiced concerns about reports that the ICRC was not notified of
detainees being held in a facility run by Special Operations Forces on
Bagram Air Base before the summer of 2009 and questioned why U.S.
authorities have failed to comply with an Afghan law requiring AIHRC
access to the Bagram facility.

"Incommunicado detention remains a fertile ground for violations of
the obligation under the Army Field Manual, the Detainee Treatment Act,
other U.S. laws, and under international treaties to which the United
States is party, to treat detainees humanely," the letter cautioned.

In October 2008, Human Rights First's Blueprint for the Next Administration: How to End Torture and Cruel Treatment
called upon the incoming administration to close secret prisons and end
the practice of holding "ghost prisoners." In a January 22, 2009
Executive Order, President Obama revoked the CIA's detention authority
and required that the ICRC be given access to all armed conflict
detainees. That Order, however, incorporates army regulations that
provide no specific deadline after detention begins and by which ICRC
access must be given. A more recent Obama Administration policy
directive requires ICRC notification within 14 days of arrival at the
detention facility, a lag that Human Rights First notes creates
conditions under which abuses can occur.

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.