Concerns over Afghan prison transfer: Report

Bagram holds rebel fighters detained by the US-led forces in their decade-long war against Taliban insurgents.

Afp September 06, 2012

KABUL: The United States looks set to continue to make arrests and control at least part of its controversial Bagram prison after formally handing over responsibility to Afghans next week, a report said Thursday.

The prison, which has sometimes been called Afghanistan's Guantanamo Bay, holds rebel fighters detained by the US-led forces in their decade-long war against Taliban insurgents.

Afghanistan and the United States signed an agreement for its transfer on March 9 and Kabul now says it expects to take over Bagram on Monday.

But the Open Society Foundation set up by US billionaire George Soros has criticised a short, six-month transition that masked inconsistencies, left open the fate of third-country and new detainees, and risks rights abuses.

"The United States also appears to want continued detention powers in Afghanistan beyond September 2012, something which all Afghan officials interviewed for this report have categorically rejected," the report said.

President Hamid Karzai had demanded that the prison be transferred before addressing long-term Afghan-US relations and possible legal immunity for US troops after the bulk of Nato combat troops leave in 2014.

The fate of 600 detainees added to the prison since March is unknown given that the deal addressed only the 3,100 detainees held when it was signed, the report said.

Around 50 foreigners, mostly from Pakistan and mostly held for years, are also not covered by the agreement, exposing them to the risk of indefinite detention reminiscent of Guantanamo Bay, it added.

"The United States appears reluctant to hand over many high value targets to the Afghan government and faces considerable challenges in moving the detainees," it said.

That meant it was "likely that the United States will continue to control at least a portion of a detention facility after the September 9 handover."

The Foundation said it was told by US officials they can still capture and detain suspects, and hinted at some reluctance to hand over all detainees in case they were released for the "wrong reasons."

Lack of rules or transparency mean that releases could be open "to arbitrary decision-making and political horse-trading", particularly as they are seen as a potentially powerful bargaining chip in talks with the Taliban, it said.

The Foundation also raised concerns about the establishment of a new, Afghan regime of detention without judicial review, which could be subject to abuse.


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