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Archive for Sunday, September 13, 2009

Reports: U.S. to give Afghan detainees new rights

September 13, 2009

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— The Obama administration is preparing new rules that would give hundreds of prisoners being held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan the right to challenge their detentions, according to published reports.

The guidelines would for the first time allow about 600 prisoners held at an American-run prison at the Bagram Air Base to call witnesses and submit evidence in their defense, The Washington Post and New York Times reported in stories Saturday on the Web.

The guidelines came to light as the Obama administration is reviewing Bush-era detention policies and determining where to make changes.

Under the rules, expected to be implemented soon, prisoners would have military-assigned representatives charged with gathering evidence and calling witnesses on their behalf. That process is similar to the one used for detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Unlike those prisoners, the Bagram detainees have had no means to challenge their detentions — some of which have stretched for years — or to hear allegations against them.

Prisoners at Bagram have been refusing privileges like recreation time and family visits arranged by the International Committee of the Red Cross to protest their lack of legal rights since July, according to U.S. military and humanitarian officials.

Human rights campaigners have argued that the prisoners should be given the same rights as those at Guantanamo, but the U.S. military argues that Bagram detainees should be treated differently because they are being held in an active theater of war.

Their status is the subject of lawsuits in the United States. A federal judge ruled in April that the Bagram detainees have the right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts, and the Obama administration has asked a federal appeals court to overturn the decision.

Efforts to get responses from administration and military officials were unsuccessful late Saturday.

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