WaPo editorial on Bagram: Yes But…

The Washington Post ran an editorial today on Bagram that is worth a read – giving credit to the Obama Administration for the changes to the detainee review process there, tempering with valid criticism:

But the administration inexcusably continues to resist necessary reforms for
those detainees — among the longest held — who were captured beyond the Afghan
battlefield. It also leaves open the possibility of future renditions to Bagram
of terrorist suspects captured outside Afghanistan. On this front, the new
proposal risks duplicating the lawlessness that came to mar the detentions at
the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

One minor point: the editorial states that “These protections go considerably further than what is required for enemy combatants by the Geneva Conventions – and appropriately so.” This assessment is correct but misleading because detainees in Afghanistan are not “enemy combatants” and the Geneva Conventions are not the only measure of what is required in an armed conflict that is not between two States. Domestic and human rights law are also baseline standards that govern detention decisions and review mechanisms.

The changes in detainee review procedures appear to be an improvement from the current regime which has resulted in indefinite and arbitrary detention. But detainees must be provided legal representation so that they have a fair opportunity to challenge their detention. The Obama Administration must end the practice of capturing individuals outside Afghanistan and bringing them to Bagram for detention. Detainees captured outside of Afghanistan and brought to Bagram should be repatriated to their home countries for release or, where evidence exists, transferred for prosecution in either U.S. federal courts or in their home countries. Read more on Human Rights First’s work on the issue.


Published on September 17, 2009


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