Posts Tagged ‘Bagram prison’

Rights Groups Condemn Ruling on Bagram Detainees

May 27, 2010

Willam Fisher, Inter Press Service  North America

NEW YORK, 26 May (IPS) – Human rights advocates are expressing shock at a federal court ruling that detainees held by the United States in Afghanistan do not have the right to challenge their detention in a U.S. federal court – and dismay that their path to a successful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court may be blocked.

A lawyer for the detainees, Tina Foster, warned that if the precedent stood, U.S. President Barack Obama and future presidents would be able to “kidnap people from other parts of the world and lock them away for the rest of their lives” without ever having to prove their case in court.

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Lendman: America’s Secret Prisons

March 18, 2010

by Stephen Lendman, Dissident Voice,  March 17, 2010

On January 28 in, Anand Gopal headlined, “Night Raids, Hidden Detention Centers, the ‘Black Jail,’ and the Dogs of War in Afghanistan,” recounting unreported US media stories about killings, abductions, detentions, interrogations, and torture in “a series of prisons on US military bases around the country.” Bagram prison, for example, is “a facility with a notorious reputation for abusive behavior,” including brutalizing torture and cold-blooded murder.

Even worse is the “Black Jail,” a facility consisting of individual windowless concrete cells with bright 24-hour lighting, described by one former detainee as “the most dangerous and fearful place” in which prisoners endure appalling treatment.

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Under Obama, more targeted killings than captures in counterterrorism efforts

February 15, 2010

By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Washington Post, February 14, 2010

When a window of opportunity opened to strike the leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa last September, U.S. Special Operations forces prepared several options. They could obliterate his vehicle with an airstrike as he drove through southern Somalia. Or they could fire from helicopters that could land at the scene to confirm the kill. Or they could try to take him alive.

The White House authorized the second option. On the morning of Sept. 14, helicopters flying from a U.S. ship off the Somali coast blew up a car carrying Saleh Ali Nabhan. While several hovered overhead, one set down long enough for troops to scoop up enough of the remains for DNA verification. Moments later, the helicopters were headed back to the ship.

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US unveils extended Bagram prison

November 15, 2009
Al Jazeera, Nov. 15, 2009
Al Jazeera was not permitted to ask detainees what they thought of the facilities [AFP]

Journalists have been allowed to inspect refurbished facilities at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, the largest US military hub in the region and home to a controversial prison.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent James Bays, who was among those who inspected the facilities on Sunday, said Bagram, unlike its Guantanamo counterpart, was clearly not going to be shut down soon.

“The new prison wing cost some $60 million to build … and is meant to be part of a new era of openness and transparency,” Bays said.

“But we were not shown the detainees. Human-rights lawyers say that, while the environment for the prisoners may be changing, their legal situation is not … not having been charged. Nor has any civilian lawyer ever been allowed inside.”

Bays said the extended prison could hold up to 1,000 detainees, but was at present holding around 700 inmates, including 30 foreign prisoners.

Lessons learnt

General Mark Martins, who runs detention operations at the airbase, said the US military was improving its treatment of detainees and had learnt many lessons since occupying the country in 2001.

In depth
Video: Access restricted on Bagram ‘tour’
Riz Khan: Is Bagram the new Guantanamo?
Focus: Guantanamo’s ‘more evil twin’?
Pictures: Faces of Guantanamo
Timeline: Guantanamo
Video: Freed inmate recounts ordeal
Smalltown USA’s Guantanamo hopes
Faultlines: Bush’s torture legacy
Witness: A strange kind of freedom

“Detention, if not done properly, can actually harm the effort. We are a learning organisation … we believe transparency is certainly going to help the effort, and increase the credibility of the whole process,” Martins said.

However, Clara Gutteridge, an investigator of secret prisons and renditions from the human rights organisation, Reprieve, said Bagram is seen as “Guantanamo’s lesser-known evil twin”.”All this talk about transparency, and the US government still won’t release a simple list of names of prisoners who are in Bagram,” she told Al Jazeera.

“None of them have had access to a lawyer … and that just seems very unfair.

“We at Reprieve see this as the next big fight after Guantanamo Bay.

“But one thing that the US government is saying is that Afghan prisoners in Afghanistan have less rights than any other prisoner which just seems absurd.”

Bagram Air Field is the largest US military hub in Afghanistan and is home to about 24,000 military personnel and civilian contractors.

Base expansion

Tens of millions of dollars continue to be spent on expanding and upgrading facilities – turning Bagram into a town spread over about 5,000 acres.

The air field part of the complex is already handling 400 tonnes of cargo and 1,000 passengers daily, according to Air Force spokesman Captain David Faggard.

It is continuing to grow to keep up with the requirements of an escalating war and troop increases.

“Detention, if not done properly, can actually harm the effort”


General Mark Martins,
commander of detention operations

Among new options being considered in Washington is regional commander General Stanley McChrystal’s request to bring an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan.But even with current troop levels – 65,000 US troops and about 40,000 from allied countries – Bagram already is bursting at the seams, our correspondent reported.

Plans are under way to build a new, $22m passenger terminal and a cargo yard costing $9m. To increase cargo capacity, a parking ramp supporting the world’s largest aircraft is to be completed in early 2010.

Bagram was previously a major Soviet base during Moscow’s 1979-89 occupation of Afghanistan, providing air support to Soviet and Afghan forces fighting the mujahidin.

Bagram lies in Parwan, a relatively quiet province. The Taliban is not believed to have a significant presence in the province.

But the base is susceptible to rocket and mortar attacks. In 2009, the Taliban launched more than a dozen attacks on the base, killing four and wounding at least 12, according to Colonel Mike Brady, a military spokesman.

U.S. government withholds information about Bagram detainees

August 16, 2009

By Danielle Kurtzleben, Inter Press Service News

WASHINGTON, Aug 14 (IPS) – The U.S. government continues to withhold even the most basic information about prisoners in the Bagram detention facility in Afghanistan, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a New York-based legal rights organisation.

An April 2009 ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents and information about the detainment of prisoners at Bagram has yielded dead ends with both the Department of Defence (DOD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The ACLU wants the Obama Administration to make these records public, including information about “the number of people currently detained at Bagram, their names, citizenship, place of capture and length of detention, as well as records pertaining to the process afforded those prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as ‘enemy combatants.’”

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Beyond Afghanistan: Choosing Nonviolence

April 3, 2009

War Resisters League

As we approach the April 4 anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s great 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech in New York City’s Riverside Church, the War Resisters League reiterates King’s urgent cry for nonviolence­ and nonviolent resistance. The parallels between the war in Afghanistan and the U.S. war against Vietnam fill us with foreboding. While we adamantly oppose continued U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we also call upon people of conscience to think beyond Afghanistan and challenge, as King did, “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.”

Others have laid out reasons­from Afghanistan’s topography to the U.S. economic crisis­ that would make an expanded war in Afghanistan “unwinnable.” But WRL does not base our opposition on such arguments. While they may be correct, we challenge the very idea of a “winnable” war and oppose this one as we oppose all war: not solely for practical and strategic reasons, but because of our, and King’s, decades-long commitment to nonviolence.

Purveyor of Violence

Much has changed in the 40-plus years since King made that speech, yet the United States remains, as he named it then, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” WRL stands, as he did, against that violence, which is not only wrong in itself, but cures nothing and rebounds on its perpetrators.

King declared that the people of Vietnam “must see Americans as strange liberators.” The assessment applies today to the people of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has lost more than two million civilian lives to war in the last 30 years alone, and the toll is rising again, in a dreadful example of the ways in which violence boomerangs and warfare begets only devastation and more warfare (including attacks by groups like Al Qaeda). For centuries that battered land has been subject to imperial aggression and intervention. The Taliban rose to power with the support of the U.S. and Pakistani intelligence services, intervening against the USSR’s invasion. Today, Afghanistan’s infrastructure is destroyed. Each year, pregnancy and childbirth kill 25,000 women, and diarrhea kills 85,000 children. Landmines planted in turn by troops of the Soviet Union, the Northern Alliance, and the Taliban kill 600 people per year and maim so many that manufacturing artificial limbs is a major industry. The infamous U.S. “detention center” at Bagram continues to hold more prisoners than Guantánamo. Rather than bombing and shelling Afghanistan­and maintaining a prison there ­the United States could promote economic development, public health, education, food security, women’s empowerment, and de-mining efforts.

The Enemy of the Poor

War wreaks its devastation within our own country as well. In this period of increased global instability and recession, the world is undergoing a tectonic shift in its assumptions about the institutions of capitalism. That re-evaluation must include its assumptions about the institution of war.

“I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube,” King said in 1967. Substitute “Iraq and Afghanistan” for Vietnam, and the sentence is equally, terribly true today.

Here as abroad, war remains, as King called it, the “enemy of the poor.” While the Pentagon pours billions of tax dollars into implements of destruction and rains down bombs on poor civilians in Afghanistan, our own infrastructure crumbles, and our own people are struggling without decent schools, healthcare, and employment. The funds that we need to provide housing and care at home end up diverted into killing people thousands of miles away, and people of color, immigrants, and lower-income whites are targeted by military recruiters to do the killing. Massive bailouts line the pockets of bankers, unemployment skyrockets, and military recruiters are having the easiest time meeting their quotas in years.

Nonviolence in Afghanistan and at Home

Despite the monumental obstacles they face, many in Afghanistan and Pakistan are working nonviolently for peace and to repair the ravages of war and warmaking. In Afghanistan, Parliamentarian Malalai Joya­despite illegal suspension from Parliament and assassination attempts ­has continued to denounce the warlords and call for human rights, women’s rights, and governmental accountability. Thousands of peace advocates in northern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan have met in the assemblies called jirgas to imagine and formulate peace and reconstruction initiatives. The lawyers’ campaign in Pakistan has mobilized thousands, despite beatings and arrests, to reverse the military’s control over the courts. Others are building schools and countering the bitter legacy of violence against women. U.S. peace advocates should be promoting and publicizing these nonviolent actions to rebuild Afghan and Pakistani society in the midst of war, devastation, warlordism, and patriarchal control.

In our own country as well, there are increasingly loud voices against war and for a reordering of our priorities­for affordable housing, universal healthcare, gender justice, disability rights, clean energy, quality education, restorative justice, fair food, and an anti-racist society. Among these allies are newcomers to the United States, people who have survived and resisted wars and challenged immigration policies that facilitate the extraction of profits from cheap labor, even while being criminalized, imprisoned, deported, and denied citizenship. Some of those most forsaken by the U.S. government have continued to build organizations and networks for those with no safety net.

The Choice

The War Resisters League urges everyone to join us in organizing, protesting, and demanding the closing of Bagram prison (and all such “detention centers”) and an end to military actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan and across the globe. Organizing against military recruitment is as important as ever now that ­the military is preying on those most affected by the battered economy. Support the voices and actions of the survivors of war. Listen to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; create space for their heartbreaking stories of remorse and harrowing accounts of the worst kinds of violence and dehumanization. Stop funding war – ­become a war tax resister. Instead of paying to train men and women to kill, foster ways to help all of us rebuild our communities.

The so-called “war on terrorism,” with its occupations and detentions, its torture and carnage, has failed because military action can never lead to security. We don’t have easy answers, but we know that the cycle of violence has to end, and we have to help end it. While thousands of people in Afghanistan and Pakistan are finding the courage to risk their lives to work for nonviolent solutions, we have a responsibility to lift our voices. We must reject the notions of good wars and bad wars, legal or illegal wars, winnable and unwinnable wars. We must decide whether our identity as a nation will be based on a culture of cultivating life or dealing death. As King declared, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. … We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.” Together, let’s choose the path of nonviolence.

For suggestions for actions opposing war in Afghanistan, see United for Peace and Justice, the antiwar coalition to which WRL belongs,

The United States’ oldest secular pacifist organization, the War Resisters League has been resisting war at home and war abroad since 1923. Our work for nonviolent revolution has spanned decades and has been shaped by the new visions and strategies of each generation’s peacemakers.

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