For Immediate Release: January 24, 2012
Washington, DC – Human Rights First welcomes the news that the Obama administration is considering transferring all non-Afghan national detainees out of the U.S.-run detention facility at the Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reported that almost 50 non-Afghan nationals are currently held at Bagram, among a total detainee population of about 3,000. The Obama administration has reportedly begun initial discussions to plan for the transfer of these non-Afghan detainees to their home countries.
“None of these remaining Bagram detainees have been charged with crimes or put on trial, let alone found guilty. The procedures used there are similar to those found unacceptable at Guantanamo by the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Human Rights First’s Gabor Rona. “Many of the detainees should never have been brought to Bagram in the first place. While these discussions should have happened years ago, it’s encouraging to see the Obama administration move in the right direction.”
Any transfers out of U.S. custody must be conducted in accordance with international law, which requires U.S. officials to take affirmative measures to ensure that detainees will not be transferred if there are substantial grounds to believe that they will be subjected to torture or other forms of abuse.
Human Rights First notes that discussions on the transfer of non-Afghan nationals out of Bagram raise the broader issue of how the United States can maintain legitimacy for its Afghan-based detention facility that houses upwards of 3,000 detainees. As Human Rights First documented in a recent report, failure to provide adequate due process for detainees at Bagram is undermining the goals of the U.S.-led mission.
“The United States should take immediate steps to bolster the due process protections for detainees at Bagram,” added Rona. “Failure to do so will not only undermine U.S. commitment to human rights principles, but also the broader military mission in Afghanistan.”
A provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act would increase due process protections for detainees at Bagram by providing detainees with military lawyers and judges to hear their cases. However, the Act gives the Obama administration broad discretion to decide which detainees will receive these protections. Human Rights First has called on the Obama administration to exercise this discretion to ensure that all detainees can equally receive the protections afforded by the law.