Former Bagram detainees allege abuse while in US custody

Accounts of abuse while in custody by former Bagram detainees recently featured in a media report, are consistent with Amnesty International’s own research.

Twenty seven men held by the USA at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan at various times between 2002 and 2008 have told the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation]  that they were subjected to beatings, stress positions, extremes of temperature, stripping, sleep deprivation and death threats.

“These interviews serve as a timely reminder of the urgent need for accountability, transparency and for the human rights of those held by the USA in Afghanistan to be fully protected,” said Rob Freer, US researcher at Amnesty International.

“The US authorities must establish a full independent commission of inquiry into all aspects of the detention and interrogation regime operated by the USA in what the Bush administration dubbed the ‘war on terror’. This should include examination of detentions in Afghanistan throughout this period.”

Amnesty International said that it regrets that the new administration has adopted wholesale the approach of its predecessor on the legal rights of the Bagram detainees.

The organization has been calling on President Obama and his administration to recognize the right of the detainees to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in an independent and impartial court.

The administration is currently appealing a narrow ruling by a federal judge in April that three non-Afghan nationals held in Bagram have the right to habeas corpus review of their detention in US federal court.

In a letter last month, the Pentagon told Amnesty International that there were “approximately 565” detainees held in Bagram. Little is known about who they are, the circumstances of their arrests, or their current treatment and conditions of detention. None has access to legal counsel or the courts.

In response to the organization’s concerns about child detainees, the Pentagon stated that since 2002 US forces had detained “approximately 100 juveniles in Afghanistan”, of whom “fewer than five” were still held. The letter gave no other details on the Bagram detentions, saying that the information Amnesty International had requested was either classified or the subject of ongoing litigation in federal court.