Karzai demands US cede Afghan prison control

President gives US a month to hand over control of Bagram detention centre and "all prisoners held by foreigners".

    Located in the nation's largest US airbase, the prison has been marred  by reports of abuse and torture [GALLO/GETTY]

    Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, has demanded the largest US detention centre in his country be handed over to Afghan control within a month, along with all Afghan citizens held by the coalition troops across the nation.

    A presidential statement said that, after a thorough review, the government had decided that keeping Afghan citizens imprisoned without trial violates the country's constitution, as well as international human rights conventions.

    The Bagram detention centre is located inside the sprawling US base in the town located north of Kabul, the capital.

    It is unclear how many high-value detainees are being held at the US facility. Human rights groups have claimed in the past that detainees were menaced, forced to strip naked and kept in solitary confinement in windowless cells.

    The statement from Karzai's office said he issued instructions to a commission consisting of the ministers of defense, interior and justice, as well as other top government and judicial officials "to complete their job regarding the handing over of the [Bagram] prison and other prisoners who are held by foreign forces.''

    "The work should be completed within a month," it said.

    Reacting to the demand, the US government said the transfer of the prison to Afghan control should be handled in a  "responsible" way.

    "We have been working for some time with the Afghan government on appropriate timing and pace for transfer of the detention facilities" at Bagram, said Victoria Nuland, US state department spokeswoman.

    "We need to do this in a manner that is maximally responsible. That's what we want to do. And we're going to keep working on it."

    When asked about the timeline for the transfer, Nuland replied: "It's a matter that we have to work on with the Afghan government as appropriate mechanisms are put in place for the transfer."

    End of night raids

    The US-led NATO coalition is gradually handing over responsibility for security to the Afghan police and army.

    The process is due to be completed in 2014, when most foreign troops are scheduled to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

    The transfer of prisons to Afghan control has been a thorny issue in the talks between Afghanistan and US for a Strategic Partnership Document that will determine the US role in Afghanistan after 2014.

    Among the conditions that Karzai has set is an end to night raids by international troops and complete Afghan control over detainees.

    Karzai’s demand for prison control also comes amid reports that the US is considering releasing a number of Taliban prisoners in Guantanamo to Qatar, a condition the Taliban have laid out ahead of opening an office in Doha, the Qatari capital, for peace talks.

    Karzai has not been happy about the manner of the release, which will put the Taliban leaders out of Afghan jurisdiction. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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