US prison camp reviews awaited

Reviews to determine legal rights of suspects held in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo.

    Obama, right, has been urged to give Bagram
    detainees basic legal rights [AFP]

    The administration of George Bush, the previous US president, had argued that as "enemy combatants", Bagram detainees had no right to challenge their detention in US courts – the same argument it made about detainees at Guantanamo.

    But the US Supreme Court ruled last year that inmates at Guantanamo had the right to challenge their detentions in US courts, a ruling that rights groups hope will be extended to Bagram detainees.

    In video

    US expands Afghanistan detention centre

    However, Rumi Nielson-Green, a spokeswoman for the US military, told Al Jazeera that the detainees held at Bagram were "unlawful enemy combatants".

    "They are individuals who have been removed from the battlefield because they are dangerous to our forces or our coalition partners," she said.

    Barack Obama, the current US president, announced earlier this week he would send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, putting the conflict there under increasing scrutiny.

    While the Obama administration has committed itself to closing Guantanamo Bay within a year, it has not yet stated its intentions on Bagram.

    Basic rights urged

    Amnesty International has urged the Obama administration to continue its break from his predecessor's "unlawful detention policies" by ensuring that "all US detentions in Afghanistan comply with international law".

    "Judicial review is a basic safeguard against executive abuse and a protection against arbitrary and secret detention, torture and other ill-treatment and unlawful transfers from one country or government to another," the human rights group said.

    "In the absence of judicial oversight, detainees in Bagram, as at Guantanamo, have been subjected to just such abuses - even children have not been spared."

    The rights group says that most of the 615 detainees being held at Bagram without access to courts or legal counsel are Afghan nationals, and that some of them have been held for years.

    Guantanamo prisoners

    Rights groups have condemned the
    treatmeant of Guantanamo prisoners [EPA]
    Meanwhile, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, is to complete a review of the treatment of Guantanamo detainees by this weekend.

    Obama had given Gates 30 days to carry out the review and has ordered that Guantanamo detainees be treated in compliance with international law.

    The US president was widely praised for moving to shut down the Guantanamo Bay camp within days of his inauguration last month.

    He has also ordered Gates and Eric Holder, the US attorney general, to carry out a wider review of the future of the detainees held at Guantanamo, who include five men suspected of involvement in the September 11 attacks on the US.

    Meanwhile, a resident of Britain held at Guantanamo would be flown back to the UK next week, the Washington Post newspaper has reported.

    Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian with British residency who has been held at Guantanamo since 2004, could be released as early as Monday, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified source involved in the process.

    The transfer from Guantanamo would be the first carried out by the Obama administration.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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