Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

More on the Bagram detainee decision

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Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:

For years, the 600 men imprisoned at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan largely escaped public notice. While the detainees at Guantanamo Bay roused the ire of critics of the Bush administration around the world, their counterparts at Bagram, held with fewer rights and much less scrutiny, languished in a U.S.-run prison and in some cases suffered gruesome beatings and even death at the hands of their captors.

Tina Monshipour Foster, the founder and executive director of the International Justice Network, was for years one of the few U.S. lawyers trying to do anything about it. So when she heard Thursday that a federal district judge in Washington had ruled that three of the four Bagram prisoners she represents have the right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court, she was thrilled.

“I’m very, very happy,” she said, reached by phone Thursday afternoon. “Maybe people will finally start listening to me.”

Foster’s reaction comes out of years of advocating for the Bagram detainees held as prisoners in President Bush’s “war on terror” but without any of the rights to which prisoners of war are usually entitled. And while lawyers from the major advocacy organizations and law firms labored hard to argue that detainees at Guantanamo Bay have constitutional rights, almost no one was willing to make that argument on behalf of the hundreds more men and boys being held at Bagram. The government — first the Bush administration, then the Obama administration — argued that because they were not U.S. citizens and were held outside the United States (and outside Guantanamo Bay), they had no constitutional rights whatsoever. That they were being held in Afghanistan, where the United States is engaged in armed conflict, made Foster’s argument that they had the right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court even more difficult.

But as I’ve written before, and as Judge John D. Bates confirmed in a groundbreaking ruling yesterday, the situation at Bagram is in fact much like that of Guantanamo Bay. Men suspected of participating in or aiding terrorism, or sold for bounty to the U.S. government by Afghan warlords, were imprisoned without charge or trial at the U.S.-run air base, where the U.S. government, which has leased the base indefinitely, has complete authority over them. In its early years, Bagram was the site of horrific abuses, such as the murders of two prisoners who were beaten two death during interrogations. Although the Pentagon says it has improved the conditions at Bagram since then, it’s impossible to know, because no one other than the U.S. military and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which issues only confidential reports to relevant governments, is allowed into the prison.

Foster is one of the few U.S. lawyers who’s even tried to get into Bagram, and traveled to Afghanistan to meet with prisoners’ families. As a result, even after a few earlier cases were dismissed because the Bush administration transferred them to Afghan prisons, relatives of other prisoners who’d mysteriously disappeared (they later learned they were in Bagram) contacted Foster and her colleagues seeking help.

In the case Bates ruled on Thursday, the International Justice Network, with the help of legal clinics from Yale and Stanford law schools, was representing four men, each abducted by U.S. authorities in various parts of the world — all outside Afghanistan — and brought to Bagram to be imprisoned, some after being tortured, they claim, in CIA “black sites”. They had all been at Bagram without charge, or the right to meet with a lawyer or family member, for more than six years. The court found that as to at least three of them, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boumediene v. Bush, which determined that Guantanamo prisoners have the right to habeas corpus review, applies just as forcefully.

“[C]onfinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government,” wrote Bates, quoting Alexander Hamilton and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Quoting The Supreme Court in Boumediene, he continued: “…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2009 at 11:25 am

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