Human Rights: Afghan prison looks like another Guantanamo

Published on IPSnews, by William Fisher, January 14, 2008.

… As the world marked the sixth anniversary of the arrival of the first orange-jumpsuit-clad prisoners at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, human rights groups are attempting to focus public and congressional scrutiny on what some are calling “the other Gitmo”.

It is a prison located on the U.S. military base at base in the ancient city of Bagram near Charikar in Parvan, Afghanistan. The detention centre was set up by the U.S. military as a temporary screening site after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan overthrew the Taliban. It currently houses some 630 prisoners – close to three times as many as are still held at Guantanamo.

In 2005, following well-documented accounts of detainee deaths, torture, and “disappeared” prisoners, the U.S. undertook efforts to turn the facility over to the Afghan government. But thanks to a series of legal, bureaucratic and administrative missteps, the prison is still under U.S. military control. And a recent confidential report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reportedly complained about the continued mistreatment of prisoners.

The ICRC report is said to cite massive overcrowding, “harsh” conditions, lack of clarity about the legal basis for detention, prisoners held “incommunicado”, in “a previously undisclosed warren of isolation cells,” and “sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions.” Some prisoners have been held without charges or lawyers for more than five years … (full long text).

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