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Monday, November 16, 2009

Obama adminstration to open new Bagram detention facility
Patrice Collins at 12:18 PM ET

[JURIST] International human rights officials toured the new US detention facility in Parwan, Afghanistan, at the edge of Bagram Air Base [official website] on Sunday. The new facility [NYT report], which has room for 1,400 detainees, is part of the Obama administration's wider efforts to improve its Afghan detainee system [JURIST news archive] and will eventually be controlled by the Afghan government. Officials have promised greater transparency based on a case management system [press release], which will allow detainees to be informed of the charges against them and provide them with the right to challenge government witnesses. Amnesty International, Human Rights First (HRF), and Human Rights Watch [advocacy websites] called on [press release] the Obama administration Monday to make sure its detention policy conforms to international law.

Last week, HRF urged the US to reform its detention policy [JURIST report] at Bagram in order to combat counterinsurgency. In September, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking information related to the treatment of prisoners at Bagram, citing fears that is becoming the "new Guantanamo." Earlier that 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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