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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ACLU lawsuit demands information on Bagram detainees
Jaclyn Belczyk at 3:57 PM ET

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] Tuesday seeking information related to the treatment of prisoners at the US detention facility at Bagram Air Base [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Afghanistan. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] against the Departments of Defense, Justice, and State, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official websites], follows a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] request [materials] filed by the ACLU in April. None of the departments have turned over any records in response to the request. ACLU staff attorney Melissa Goodman said:


There is growing concern that Bagram has become the new Guantanamo – except with hundreds more prisoners, held indefinitely in reportedly harsher conditions, with no access to lawyers or courts. ... Yet the public is still in the dark when it comes to basic facts such as whom our military is holding there, for how long and on what grounds, and the rules that govern their detention, release and treatment. As long as the Bagram prison is shrouded in secrecy, there is no way to know the truth or begin to address the problems that may exist.

The ACLU is seeking records including "a list of vital information about detainees being held there, the rules that govern the facility, and documents pertaining to the conditions of confinement and status review process afforded prisoners."

Earlier this month, the Obama administration issued new guidelines [JURIST report] allowing Bagram detainees to challenge their indefinite incarceration. Detainees will have access to members of the US military who would be able to gather classified evidence and question witnesses on behalf of any detainee challenging his detention. The military officials would not be lawyers, but they are expected to provide detainees, some of whom have been held for more than five years without charges, better representation before military-appointed review boards. The changes come amidst ongoing protests [JURIST report] by prisoners. Hundreds of Bagram detainees have been refusing shower and exercise time and have ceased participation in a family visits and teleconferences program set up by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [advocacy website].





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