The US-run prison at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan has been accused once again of violating detainee’s human rights by Afghan leaders. This comes after a government investigation into the prison, where widespread abuses have been documented before. Of the 3,000 prisoners at Bagram, only a mere 300 are being tried; the rest have no due process and no justice to their name. This isn’t the first time US human rights abuses have been revealed at Bagram. Human Rights First launched an investigation and released a report last spring that detailed abuses and the lack of due process at the prison. Although the Afghan justice system is also known to deny detainees due process rights and torture prisoners, the United States cannot abandon principles of fair and just treatment of detainees in any part of the world. The one bright spot of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorized the indefinite detention of American citizens, is that it actually addressed this issue of due process for Bagram detainees.
Under NDAA Section 1024, Bagram detainees are to be provided with a military defense lawyer and the right to stand before a military judge. However President Obama chose to reject this section in his signing statement, writing that the requirements “needlessly interfere with the executive branch’s processes for reviewing the status of detainees.” He added that his “Administration will interpret section 1024 as granting the Secretary of Defense broad discretion to determine what detainee status determinations in Afghanistan are subject to the requirements of this section. ” In short, the human right to due process is not a right in President Obama’s book—just something he will consider. Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First explains:
“[President Obama is] claiming that Congress is interfering with executive power merely by demanding that the executive be held accountable for its exercise. That claim rings particularly hollow given that the current review process provided to detainees in Afghanistan is even less robust than the one the Bush Administration provided to detainees at Guantanamo Bay and that the Supreme Court in 2008 struck down as inadequate.”
The further accusations against Bagram come at a interesting time, as yesterday, January 11, was the 10th anniversary of the Guantánamo Bay detention center. Yesterday was a day of action against all prisons that detain people unlawfully, with events in DC, Dallas, Chicago and other cities and towns across nation.