Bagram is the new Guantánamo Bay

June 24, 2009

Image of barbed wire at the Bagram Airbase

BBC revelations confirm abuses in Bagram Air Force Base; Reprieve calls on the Government to take action confirming the two Pakistanis who the British helped render there from Iraq.

In an investigation into the US detention facility at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the BBC revealed systematic evidence of abuse. Prisoners were routinely beaten, subjected to music torture, and shackled in stress positions for long periods. The BBC interviewed 27 former prisoners, held there between 2002 and 2008, none of whom was ever charged with a crime.

“The legal black hole in Bagram underlines the British government’s moral black hole when it comes to rendering two Pakistani prisoners there in 2004,” said Clive Stafford Smith, Director of Reprieve. “These men were in British custody in Iraq, were turned over to the US, and have now been held for five years without any respect for their legal rights.”

On February 26, 2009, Defence Secretary John Hutton announced to the Commons that Britain had handed two anonymous Pakistani men over to the US, and they had subsequently been rendered to Afghanistan, where they were still being held. “We have been assured that are held in a humane, safe and secure environment, meeting international standards consistent with cultural and religious norms,” Mr Hutton said at the time.

“As we have said all along, beating people and holding them incommunicado is not humane, safe and secure,” said Mr. Stafford Smith. “Britain has a moral duty to identify these men, so that we can reunite them with their legal rights, yet Mr Hutton refuses to do this.”

No prisoner in Bagram has been allowed to see a lawyer, or challenge his detention. According to the BBC, the US justice department argues that because Afghanistan is an active combat zone it is not possible to conduct rigorous inquiries into individual cases and that it would divert precious military resources at a crucial time.

“These men were never in Afghanistan until the UK and the US took them there,” said Mr Stafford Smith. “It is the height of hypocrisy to take someone to Bagram and then claim that it is too dangerous to let them see a lawyer.  Even Guantánamo Bay is better than this.”


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Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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