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Afghan Prisoners Challenge Indefinite Detention

By William Fisher | January 08, 2010 | Excerpt

On Thursday, the D.C. circuit court heard oral arguments in a case known as Maqaleh v. Gates – the first legal challenge in U.S. courts on behalf of prisoners detained at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.

The case was brought by the International Justice Network (IJNetwork) on behalf of two Yemenis and one Tunisian citizen, each seized outside of Afghanistan from third countries and held without charge or trial in U.S. custody for more than six years.

Evidence suggests that each man was shuttled through U.S.-run secret prisons (“black sites”) for torture and interrogation, prior to ultimately being transferred to Bagram – itself the site of well-documented human rights violations – where they continue to be subjected to indefinite detention under sole U.S. military custody.

During the entire six-year period he has been in U.S. custody, Maqaleh has not been permitted to see his family and has been denied any access to lawyers or a court of law. Because he is being held virtually incommunicado, his father authorized IJNetwork to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in U.S. court seeking his release.

Though his case has now been pending for over three years, the government continues to refuse to allow Maqaleh to communicate with his attorneys.

In April 2009, Judge John D. Bates ruled that Maqaleh and two other petitioners in the case, Amin al-Bakri and Redha al-Najar, have a constitutional right to petition U.S. courts for a writ of habeas corpus.

Judge Bates’ decision was based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Boumediene v. Bush, which established that detainees held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo had a constitutional right to file habeas corpus petitions in U.S. courts.

But before any of the Bagram detainees could have his day in court, the Barack Obama administration appealed Judge Bates’ decision, arguing that none of the 600 detainees at Bagram have any rights under U.S. law.

As the organization representing the Bagram detainees, the IJNetwork has called on the Obama administration to end the practices of rendition, torture, and indefinite detention and provide fundamental human rights to all individuals held in U.S. custody – including at Bagram.

Though President Obama has vowed to close Guantanamo, the Department of Justice continues to defend the George W. Bush administration’s position that individuals held at other U.S.-run military facilities have no legal rights.

Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, arguing for the government, said the circumstances surrounding detention of prisoners at Bagram are unique and do not match the circumstances at the Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba. Katyal noted that Bagram is in the middle of a war zone.

But Tina Foster, executive director of the IJNetwork, who argued for the Bagram detainees, told IPS, “Our clients are three innocent men who have been imprisoned without charge for seven years and haven’t even been told why.”

“The fundamental question at issue in these cases is whether the United States government can seize individuals from peaceful countries anywhere in the world and imprison them without charge indefinitely, based solely on the location of the prison facility where the government decides to detain them,” Foster said.

She added, “The position of the Obama administration is that it can do so, as long as it uses Bagram, instead of Guantanamo, as its legal black hole. This is an extreme position – and one that allows the president to do exactly what the Supreme Court said was unconstitutional in the Guantanamo cases.”

IPS

January 8, 2010 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture

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