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Don't Let Bagram Become Another Gitmo

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June 24, 2009

Today the BBC reported that detainees held in U.S. custody from 2002 – 2008 at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan were tortured.

Given the thousands of documentary pages of evidence of torture in Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and the black sites, is anyone surprised?

Based on interviews with 27 former Bagram detainees over a period of two months, the report finds that detainees were subjected to stress positions, physical abuse, excessive heat and cold, loud music, forced nudity and threats at gunpoint.

Earlier this year, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records pertaining to the detention and treatment of detainees in U.S. custody at Bagram. We want to know how many people are imprisoned at Bagram, who they are, how long they’ve been detained, and where and under what circumstances they were captured. We’re also requesting records about the process for prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as “enemy combatants.”

In early April, a federal judge ruled that three prisoners being held by the U.S. at Bagram can challenge their detention in U.S. courts. The Justice department is appealing that decision.

The BBC points out that while campaigning, President Obama applauded the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that granted Guantánamo detainees the right to challenge the detentions in U.S. courts. He called it an “important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.”

In a statement issued by the ACLU today responding to the BBC report, National Security Project staff attorney Jonathan Hafetz stated:

Torture and abuse at Bagram is further evidence that prisoner abuse in U.S. custody was systemic, not aberrational, and originated at the highest levels of government. We must learn the truth about what went wrong, hold the proper people accountable and make sure these failed policies are not continued or repeated.

We hope the President recalls this commitment to the rule of law when takes the next steps to close Guantánamo, while not creating other Gitmos overseas.

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