Obama Indefinitely Detains, Not Just at Gitmo

John Glaser, August 05, 2013

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The news today is that Guantanamo Bay’s head jailor William Lietzau, “in charge of the indefinite detention of a lot of people long-since cleared for release,” writes Jason Ditz, has condemned the lack of due process, saying we should “have called them prisoners of war from the beginning,” charged them, and given them trials.

The debate about Gitmo hasn’t changed since the early years of the Bush administration. Despite it’s public pronouncements, the Obama administration seems to have settled on keeping the detention center open and upholding indefinite detention as a staple of the war on terror. But Gitmo isn’t the only issue here.

The U.S.-controlled prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan is nicknamed, according to The Washington Post, “The Second Guantanamo.”

The United States holds 67 non-Afghan prisoners there, including some described as hardened al-Qaeda operatives seized from around the world in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. More than a decade later, they’re still kept in the shadowy facility at Bagram air base outside Kabul.

In a 2011 interview, an attorney for Human Rights First Daphne Eviatar told CBS of Bagram: “It’s worse than Guantanamo, because there are fewer rights.”

Last year, the U.S. gave in to demands from Afghan President Hamid Karzai to give full control of the approximately 3,000 inmates in Bagram detention center to the Afghan government as part of the transition to withdraw most U.S. troops from the country in 2014. The Obama administration ended up quibbling over a small portion of the detainees, insisting on continued U.S. control.

Many of the detainess kept there by the U.S. have not been charged or tried, and many have been severely abused. In 2012, an Afghan investigative commission accused the American military of abusing detainees in the Bagram prison facilities, prompting Karzai’s push on the issue.

“Contrary to the Obama administration’s stated goals of increasing Afghan sovereignty and strengthening the rule of law in Afghanistan,” said Tina M. Foster, Executive Director of the International Justice Network, “this aspect of the transition will leave a dangerous legacy of unchecked and limitless power in the hands of whoever takes control of the country long after coalition forces have withdrawn.”

“The power to detain perceived enemies of the state indefinitely and without trial will not only lead to more arbitrary arrests and human rights abuses,” Foster added, “but will continue to fuel the insurgency for years to come – it is a great victory for the Taliban and a great loss for the Afghan people.”

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that denying the right of habeas corpus to Gitmo detainees was unconstitutional. In response, the U.S. government provided not actual trials but habeas corpus review. Despite many detainees being cleared for release in this process, Obama still insists on caging them. Now, scores of inmates are starving themselves in protest of their mistreatment, only to be force-fed by guards, which is a form of torture.

This sorry existence probably pales in comparison to that endured by detainees in U.S. custody in Bagram. Somehow, we hardly hear anything about the Obama administration’s policies in The Second Guantanamo.




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