For Immediate Release: October 6, 2011
Washington, DC – Today, ahead of tomorrow’s 10-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Human Rights First is calling on the Obama Administration to finally begin to provide due process for the thousands of suspected insurgents the U.S. military holds without charge or trial at Bagram Air Base.
According to the organization, despite the Obama Administration’s plan to withdraw troops by 2014, the U.S. government has no plans to shutter the Bagram detention facility anytime soon. In fact, after having quadrupled the number of detainees held there since President Obama took office, defense department officials recently acknowledged that they are doubling the prison’s capacity. It currently holds about 2,600 detainees.
“It is unconscionable that ten years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the United States still does not provide the minimum level of due process to its detainees there,” said Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar, who observed the hearings given to detainees in Afghanistan earlier this year. “The current system does not adequately distinguish between innocent men and those who pose a real danger to U.S. forces. Unfortunately, this is more likely to fuel the insurgency than to stop it.”
As Human Rights First explained in a May 2011 report following an on-the-ground investigation in Afghanistan earlier this year, the U.S. military is failing to provide detainees at the detention facility at Bagram a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves against charges that they supported the Taliban or otherwise participated in attacks against U.S. forces. Prisoners are not allowed to have legal representation, and have no right to see the evidence against them. Although they receive rudimentary hearings where they are allowed to make a statement, based on our direct observation of these hearings, we believe they do not meet even the minimum international standards of due process, and do not allow the U.S. military to determine whether the detainee has actually participated in the insurgency or poses a danger to U.S. forces and therefore needs to be imprisoned.
In its report, Detained and Denied in Afghanistan, Human Rights First sets forth specific recommendations that the U.S. military can implement immediately to remedy the situation. These include providing military lawyers for the detainees at their hearings, and de-classifying more of the evidence used against the detainees, so that they can meaningfully respond to the allegations.
“This 10-year anniversary is the time for the United States to re-assess its detention strategy in Afghanistan. Failure to provide due process to Afghan detainees is angering the local population and making Afghans less willing to cooperate with or trust U.S. forces. It is ultimately a counter-productive strategy that harms U.S. national security,” Eviatar noted.
For more information about the detainees in Afghanistan, see In Their Own Words: HRF Interview with Former Detainees in Afghanistan. For additional information or to speak with Eviatar, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at email@example.com or 202-370-3323.