Bagram, Worse Than Guantanamo?

This video says about itself:

Taxi to the Dark Side is a 2007 Academy Award-nominated documentary film directed by American filmmaker Alex Gibney. The film focuses around the controversial death in custody of an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar. Dilawar was beaten to death by American soldiers while being held in extrajudicial detention at the Bagram Air Base. Taxi to the Dark Side also goes on to examine America’s policy on torture and interrogation in general, specifically the CIA’s use of torture and their research into sensory deprivation.

There is description of the opposition to the use of torture from its political and military opponents, as well as the defence of such methods; the attempts by Congress to uphold the standards of the Geneva Convention forbidding torture; and the popularisation of the use of torture techniques in shows such as 24. The film is said to be the first film to contain images taken within Bagram Air Base. On November 19, 2007, Taxi to the Dark Side was named by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of 15 films on its documentary feature Oscar shortlist, and was ultimately one of five films nominated for a prize in the “Best Documentary Feature” category.

From IPS news agency:

US-AFGHANISTAN: Bagram, Worse Than Guantanamo?

By William Fisher

NEW YORK, Jan 12 – While millions know that the administration of George W. Bush has left Barack Obama with the job of closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, relatively few are aware that the new president will also face a similar but far larger dilemma 7,000 miles away.

That dilemma is what to do with what has become known as “the other GITMO” — the U.S.-controlled military prison at Bagram Air Base near Kabul in Afghanistan — and the estimated 600-700 detainees now held there.

The “other GITMO” 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 more than three times as many prisoners 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 due 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. The Red Cross said that dozens of prisoners have been held incommunicado for weeks or even months, hidden from prison inspectors. According to Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Bagram appears to be just as bad as, if not worse than, Guantanamo. When a prisoner is in American custody and under American control, our values are at stake and our commitment to the rule of law is tested.”

She told IPS, “The abuses cited by the Red Cross give us cause for concern that we may be failing the test. The Bush administration is not content to limit its regime of illegal detention to Guantanamo, and has tried to foist it on Afghanistan.”

She added: “Both Congress and the executive branch need to investigate what’s happening at Bagram if we are to avoid a tragic repetition of history.”

But most observers believe the solution is more likely to come in the courts and to be inextricably linked to recent judicial decisions affecting prisoners at Guantanamo.

17 thoughts on “Bagram, Worse Than Guantanamo?

  1. Khadr charges will be dropped after inauguration: lawyers

    Steven Edwards and Sheldon Alberts, Canwest News Service Published: Monday, January 12, 2009
    More On This Story

    NEWYORK — Charges against Omar Khadr will be dropped “without prejudice” shortly after Barack Obama’s inauguration Jan. 20 as president, the Canada-born terror suspect’s U.S. military lawyers predicted Monday.

    The technical arrangement will effectively suspend the Jan. 26 start date for his trial before a military commission at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Mr. Obama’s advisers say one of the new president’s first duties in office will be to order the closing of the Guantanamo detention camps.

    Under the Bush administration, up to 80 detainees were to eventually face trial, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), who has said he was responsible for planning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks “from A to Z.”

    Mr. Khadr, 22, is accused of killing a U.S. soldier in a firefight when he was 15, and his trial is the only one currently scheduled to begin.

    “We can’t imagine that the new president will move to close the camps without also addressing the military commissions,” said Rebecca Synder, one of Mr. Khadr’s Pentagon-appointed lawyers. “Otherwise, it may seem that he may end up giving KSM a fairer trial than Omar Mr. Khadr, a former child soldier.”

    Effective suspension of the charges will result in increased pressure on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to find a formula to return Toronto-born Mr. Khadr to Canada, according to navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, Mr. Khadr’s lead Pentagon-appointed lawyer.

    “I still think it is appropriate that he returns under certain supervisory conditions, but I also believe that it is possible the window for achieving that is now closing,” he said. “We don’t know exactly what Mr. Obama will do regarding this case. But there is a chance right now to ensure an arrangement is in place that gets Omar the things he needs for rehabilitation.”

    Harper said Monday he would wait to see what the Mr. Obama administration does with Mr. Khadr before deciding whether Canada’s position should be changed.

    “We have a very different situation with Mr. Mr. Khadr. He is accused of a very serious thing and there is a legal process,” he said.

    With Mr. Obama weighing an imminent decision to order the closure of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, leading human-rights agencies on Monday appealed for him to halt the looming trial.

    At a news conference in Washington, Senator Romeo Dallaire and several leading Guantanamo critics warned Mr. Obama will betray his campaign promises if he allows the 22-year-old Canadian to stand trial on Jan. 26.

    In a letter to Mr. Obama, the group argued Mr. Khadr is a child soldier who should not face military justice at Guantanamo.

    “Really, what we’re asking for here is not even for president-elect Mr. Obama to make a judgment about Omar Mr. Khadr’s innocence or guilt — or about his case — but for his administration to call a moratorium, to freeze the proceedings,” said Marsha Levick, the legal director of the Juvenile Law Center, a Washington-based advocacy group.

    If the trial opens as planned, “it would be an enormous disappointment for those of us who have watched the campaign and trusted president-elect Mr. Obama’s remarks with respect to his own views on the military proceedings,” Ms. Levick said.

    The future of the Guantanamo military prison looms as one of the biggest facing Mr. Obama in the days following his inauguration.

    The Associated Press reported Monday the incoming president is expected to issue an executive order within his first week in office ordering the prison closed, and to determine how best to relocate its 250 remaining detainees.

    But that may leave unresolved the pressing question of Mr. Khadr’s trial in a military commission process Mr. Obama himself has declared a “dangerously flawed legal” system.

    “If the proceedings against Omar Mr. Khadr go on, and go forward Jan. 26, (Mr. Khadr) will in fact be the first child tried in the United States for war crimes in our history,” said Ms. Levick.

    A military commission judge last summer dismissed arguments by defence lawyers, who cited the UN optional protocol on children in armed conflict as prohibiting Mr. Khadr from facing a war-crimes tribunal. The U.S. signed the protocol in 2000.

    Brooke Anderson, Mr. Obama’s national security spokeswoman, declined to comment on Mr. Khadr’s case Monday.

    Sen. Dallaire, a former Canadian military general who has led efforts in Parliament to repatriate Mr. Khadr, said his staff has been in touch with Mr. Obama’s transition team about the case.

    With Harper’s government refusing to intervene, Sen. Dallaire said he’s still hopeful Mr. Obama will order Mr. Khadr released into Canadian custody.

    “I have gotten nowhere with the Canadian government. Although we have attempted to convince the prime minister that standing aloof from this process is inappropriate … he refused to open up a conversation with the Americans in regards to Mr. Khadr,” Sen. Dallaire said.

    “If the Canadians don’t want to ask for him … then maybe the solution is [for Mr. Obama] to offer him to the Canadians.”

    The spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday that Canada’s position on Mr. Khadr has not changed.

    “We will be following with interest any developments under the incoming administration of president-elect Mr. Obama,” said Cannon’s spokeswoman, Catherine Loubier.

    Liberal foreign affairs critic Bryon Wilfert repeated the Opposition’s call for Harper to ask for Mr. Khadr to be repatriated, just as western countries, such as Australia and Britain, have done with their nationals in Guantanamo.

    And he reiterated that Mr. Khadr should “face justice” from Canadian courts for the crimes he’s accused of, and not simply be set free.

    “He should come home — period. Whether Guantanamo is closed or not is a secondary issue,” Wilfert told Canwest News Service.

    “Closing Guantanamo isn’t going to be done overnight, in any event. Mr. Obama’s team is going to have to look very closely at it.”

    Mr. Khadr’s legal allies include five leading international human-rights organizations — Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights First and the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers — that made separate written appeals to Mr. Obama on Monday.

    “We urge that, upon taking office, you act quickly to suspend the military commissions, drop the military commission charges against Mr. Khadr, and either repatriate him for rehabilitation in Canada or transfer him to federal court and prosecute him in accordance with international juvenile justice and fair trial standards,” the groups said in their letter.

    Also speaking on Mr. Khadr’s behalf was Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier in Sierra Leone who last year rose to international prominence with the publication of a bestselling memoir about his wartime experiences.

    Mr. Khadr’s conviction for war crimes would signal a double standard in the way American policy treats child soldiers, Beah said.

    “Are we sending a message out there that says if a child that engages in war and is forced in war in any other country than the United States, then we are able to forgive them?” Beah asked. “But if a child is used in war in ways that it takes the life of a U.S. citizen, then we are not able to look at them as a child? That is not the kind of legal precedent we want to set.”

    During his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama was a fierce critic of both the Guantanamo prison and the military commission system established by the Bush administration to try enemy combatants detained after the 9/11 terror attacks.

    But only last weekend, Mr. Obama said his pledge to close the prison likely would prove more difficult than he expected, and that it would be “a challenge” to shut it down during his first 100 days in office.

    “It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize,” he told ABC News. Mr. Obama said he was struggling with “how to balance creating a process that adheres to rule of law, habeas corpus, basic principles of Anglo-American legal system, but doing it in a way that doesn’t result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.”

    With files from Mike Blanchfield, Canwest News Service


  2. Posted by: “frankofbos”

    Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:01 pm (PST)

    Bush History-Scientists & Military Brass Explain Harm Caused by Bush
    Policies, 1/14

    In the news on this date: Scientists talk of the harm caused by Bush
    appointees who “fabricate” science to the benefit of industry and harm
    of the environment (2008). Also in 2008, the military brass talks of
    US harm caused by Bush’s Gitmo policies. Admiral Mike Mullen: “I’d like
    to see it shut down … it’s been pretty damaging”. And a Bushism.

    More details, from the 2009 Bush Blunder Calendar …

    Today’s category: Betraying Justice, Human Rights/Human Wrongs, Iraq,
    Revolt of the GOP & Insiders


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