Saturday, September 12, 2009

Obama Gives New Rights To Afghan Prisoners

US Military leaders promoting Islam, new rules of engagement for our troops, and now this. What a weakened country we have become.

U.S. Gives New Rights To Afghan Prisoners
Challenging Detention to Be Allowed

By Karen DeYoung and Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hundreds of prisoners held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan will for the first time have the right to challenge their indefinite detention and call witnesses in their defense under a new review system being put in place this week, according to administration officials.

The new system will be applied to the more than 600 Afghans held at the Bagram military base, and will mark the first substantive change in the overseas detention policies that President Obama inherited from the Bush administration.

International human rights organizations have long criticized conditions at the Bagram facility, where detainees have been held -- many of them for years -- without access to lawyers or even the right to know the reason for their imprisonment. Afghans have cited Bagram, where virtually all prisoners in U.S. custody are held, as a major source of resentment toward coalition forces, a senior administration official said.

As part of a prison-wide protest that began in July, detainees at Bagram, located north of Kabul, have refused visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross and have declined video teleconferences with their families. The goal of the new procedures, the official said, is to create a "more robust" system that would "allow detainees to tell their story."

The Bagram system is similar to the annual Administrative Review Boards used for suspected terrorists at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Officials said the review proceedings at Bagram will mark an improvement in part because they will be held in detainees' home countries -- where witnesses and evidence are close at hand.

"This process is about doing the right thing -- only holding those we have to," said the administration official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly about policy.

Human rights organizations briefed by the Pentagon described the new system as a step in the right direction but inadequate. "Any reforms in U.S. detentions in Afghanistan is an improvement, but it remains to be seen whether the new procedures will cure the ills of arbitrary and indefinite detention that have been the hallmark of detentions in Bagram," said Sahr Muhammed Ally of the New York-based group Human Rights First.

Any new procedure, she said, "must provide detainees a legal representative to ensure a meaningful mechanism . . . to challenge their detention, which these procedures do not provide."

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