Who Is In Control Of The Bagram Prison?

The Bagram Theatre Detention Facility, otherwise also known as the Detention Facility In Parawan (DFIP), was handed over the current Afganistan government on March 2013. The hand over was a result of some nearly four years of negotiations between the US and the Afghanistan authorities about the specific nature of cooperation and collaboration between the two governments once the hand over was complete. However, even the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 2012 was in jeopardy as the 2013 deadline for the handover came closer. The two countries disagreed on how best to handle the prisoners, with the US insisting on all prisoners be held in ‘administrative detention’ i.e without access to lawyers, public trials or other legal rights, and that it have a final say on prisoner release decisionsAs Glenn Greenwald argued:

The US has long been demanding that the Afghan government continue the American practice of indefinite detention without charges, and still presses this demand even after the top Afghan court in September ruled that such detentions violate Afghan law. Human rights workers in Afghanistan have long pointed out that America’s practice of imprisoning Afghans without charges is a major source of anti-American sentiment in the country. In a 2009 interview, Jonathan Horowitz of the Open Society Institute told me: “The majority of the people who I have spoken to cite the way that the US captures and detains people as their main complaint against the US, second only to civilian casualties.”

 Though the prison was officially handed over to the Afghanis, the Americans continue to maintain a close engagement in any and all activities at the prison, including a full over-sight of the judicial review and release decisions. In fact, the Americans hold a near veto power of who get released and despite suggestions to the contrary, the criminal courts set up to handle the Afghani prisoners are no different than the military commissions that the Americans had set up earlier, and which have been severely criticized. As Tina Foster, a lawyer with the International Justice Network, explained:

It’s a sham—Karzai has been talking the talk of Afghan national sovereignty, but in the course of doing so he capitulated and is doing exactly what the U.S. wanted him to do. These are just kangaroo courts set up inside Bagram, this is not a real Afghan criminal proceeding.

Though there is a new MoU that ostensibly accepts the Afghani government demands that it have full sovereign control over the prison and the Afghani nationals held there, it is clear that this is far from the current reality. The Americans continue to maintain major authoritative control over current prisoners, and all new prisoners being bought in. It is estimate that about 100 new prisoners are bought to the prison each month. Furthermore, the March 2013 hand over did not include the near 60 foreign nationals that the American’s continue to hold in a separate part of the Bagram facility. These Third Country National (TCN) include nearly 35 Pakistanis and some 30 odd men from various Arab nations. This decision to retain control over the TCN violates the agreement of the 2012 MoU. Today the prison is ostensibly under the authority of the Afghan government, but it is clear that the US has complete oversight and decision making authority within this new structure. The areas of the facility that the Afghans control lies well within the boundaries of the American controlled base.

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