Government Should Make Bagram Documents Public, Says ACLU
Group Files FOIA Request For Records About Detention And Treatment Of Prisoners At Afghanistan Detention Center
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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today asked the Obama administration to make public records pertaining to the detention and treatment of prisoners held at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records pertaining to the number of people currently detained at Bagram and their names, citizenship, place of capture and length of detention. The ACLU is also seeking records pertaining to the process afforded those prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as "enemy combatants."
"The U.S. government's detention of hundreds of prisoners at Bagram has been shrouded in complete secrecy. Bagram houses far more prisoners than Guantánamo, in reportedly worse conditions and with an even less meaningful process for challenging their detention, yet very little information about the Bagram facility or the prisoners held there has been made public," said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "Without transparency, we can't be sure that we're doing the right thing – or even holding the right people – at Bagram."
Recent news reports suggest that the U.S. government is detaining more than 600 individuals at Bagram, including not only Afghan citizens captured in Afghanistan but also an unknown number of foreign nationals captured thousands of miles from Afghanistan and brought to Bagram. Some of these prisoners have been detained for as long as six years without access to counsel, and only recently have been permitted any contact with their families. At least two Bagram prisoners have died while in U.S. custody, and Army investigators concluded that the deaths were homicides.
"When prisoners are in American custody and under American control, no matter the location, our values and commitment to the rule of law are at stake," said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "Now that President Obama has taken the positive step of ordering Guantánamo shut down, it is critical that we don't permit ‘other Gitmos' to continue elsewhere."
The ACLU's request is addressed to the Departments of Defense, Justice and State and the CIA.
A federal judge recently ruled that three prisoners being held by the U.S. at Bagram can challenge their detention in U.S. courts, in habeas corpus suits brought by the International Justice Network, Stanford Law School's International Human Rights Clinic and the National Litigation Project of Yale Law School's Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic. The prisoners, who were captured outside of Afghanistan and are not Afghan citizens, have been held there for more than six years without charge or access to counsel. The Obama administration is appealing the ruling.
The ACLU's FOIA request, including a complete list of documents being requested, is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/39441lgl20090423.html