The United States officially handed over control of Bagram Prison in Afghanistan today.
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CBS News has a new report on the U.S. detention program at Bagram in Afghanistan:
Today, there are more than 3,000 detainees at Bagram, or five times the number (around 600) when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. There are currently 18 times as many detainees at Bagram than at the U.S. military prison at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, whose prisoner population has dwindled from a peak of 780 to 170.
The military has changed the name of the facility to the Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP).
DOD is now reviewing bids from contractors to expand the facility to house up to 5,500 detainees. The project is expected to cost another $25 to $100 million when it is completed by the end of 2012.
In May, 2011, Human Rights First published this report on Bagram, Detained and Denied in Afghanistan. At that time, their were 1,700 detainees at Bagram. "The Department of Defense won't release the names of its Bagram detainees or its reasons for holding them indefinitely."
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today reversed a trial court decision by Judge John Bates, a Bush appointee, and ruled that three detainees who have been held at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan without charges since 2002-2003, are not allowed to bring a habeas corpus action seeking release in U.S. courts. The opinion is here.
Judge Bates ruled in April, 2009 that there was no difference between those held at Bagram and those held at Guantanamo. His decision applied only to about a dozen detainees who were non-Afghans captured outside Afghanistan.
The three men in the case are a Tunisian man who says he was captured in Pakistan in 2002, and two from Yemen. One says he was captured in Thailand in 2002, and the other says he was detained in 2003 also outside Afghanistan.
The Appeals court based its ruling on the fact that "Bagram was on the sovereign territory of another government" and “pragmatic obstacles” of giving hearings to detainees “in an active theater of war.” [More....]
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The New York Times reports on two "black jails" still being operated by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. It has interviewed several released detainees whose accounts are similar. They had no access to the Red Cross. One is a special unit at Bagram:
The site consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each lighted by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day, where detainees said that their only contact with another human being was at twice-daily interrogation sessions.
The jail’s operation highlights a tension between President Obama’s goal to improve detention conditions that had drawn condemnation under the Bush administration and his desire to give military commanders leeway to operate. ...While Mr. Obama signed an order to eliminate so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency in January, that order did not apply to this jail, which is run by military Special Operations forces.
The other is at Balad Air Base in Iraq. An Obama Adminisration official says Obama's orders to close the black hole sites applied to those run by the CIA, not military Special Operations forces, and there are no plans to close these jails.
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[Judge]Bates noted that the detainees are similar to those held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Those detainees won the right to challenge their confinements in federal court under a landmark Supreme Court ruling last year.
....Bates ruled that while the sites were "not identical," the "objective degree of [U.S.] control" was not "appreciably different." Obstacles to resolving the detainees' rights "are not as great as respondents claim," Bates said of the U.S. position. "And importantly," he wrote, the obstacles "are largely of the Executive's choosing," because the men "were all apprehended elsewhere and then brought (i.e. rendered) to Bagram for detention now exceeding six years."
The Obama Administration had sided with Bush on the case.
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The Obama Administration has advised a federal judge that it agrees with former President Bush's position that detainees at the U.S. military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan have no right to challenge their confinement in U.S. Courts.
Last year, the US Supreme Court gave suspects held at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the right to challenge their detention.
Following that ruling, petitions were filed at a Washington district court on behalf of four detainees at Bagram.
The judge then gave the new administration an opportunity to refine the rules on appeals. In a two-sentence filing, justice department lawyers said the new administration had decided not to change the government's position.
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