New report reveals effects of US detention without charge at Bagram

September 4, 2013

Image of the Bagram exterior with guards

Produced by NGO Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which represents 11 of the men, the report includes newly-gathered testimony from family members and former detainees.

Bagram, sometimes referred to as ‘the Afghan Guantanamo’, affords no due process or basic legal rights to the men detained there. Although the prison was transferred to Afghan authorities in March 2013, 60 non-Afghan nationals remain under US control; 40 of these men are Pakistani. None has ever been charged with a crime. It is in Bagram that Yunus Rahmatullah and Amanatuallah Ali are held – two men rendered in a joint UK-US operation which was the subject of a UK Supreme Court ruling. 

One Bagram prisoner, Kaleem, was 14 years old when he was kidnapped by US forces. He was cleared for release in 2010 yet remains detained. His father, Gul Muhammad, is an ex-Army officer who struggles to survive in his son’s absence.

Zain, who was just three when his father was taken to Bagram, is now 12 years old. He said: ‘I don’t remember him much. I was quite young when he left. I remember he took me to school when I was admitted to Class 1. Then he disappeared and now I can’t even remember his face. I miss him. When I see other boys playing with their fathers, and the things they do together, I do miss him. I think of him then.’

Gul Nawaz is the brother of Abdul Jabbar, held since 2005. As Gul Nawaz explained, he and his family have “lost one of the breadwinners in the family. I work when I can and one of my elder brothers works as well. My younger brother goes to school,” Gul Nawaz added, “It’s important that he get an education.”

‘Closing Bagram, the Other Guantanamo’ also details how:

  • Detainees are not permitted access to independent legal counsel. JPP has never been able to meet with and never has any contact with the men it represents.
  • A Detainee Review Board (DRB) reviews prisoner status every six months yet at no point are detainees represented by a legally trained advocate. Instead, each detainee is assigned a ‘personal representative’ (PR) who is tasked with representing the detainee’s best interests. The PR is a member of the US military.  Former detainee Ayaz, arrested aged just 15, said: ‘The DRBs (Detainee Review Boards) were a joke, another way to humiliate us. I had a representative who was not a lawyer. He would often make my case worse… The only evidence they had against me is what they first forced me to sign at [a U.S. military base in] Paktika (province).
  • Family members of Pakistani detainees are typically unable to meet with their loved ones because of the difficulty in travel and time spent away from employment.
  • The U.S. military only allows detainees to speak with their family in Urdu or Pashtu. Any discussions in other languages, which are often the mother tongue of family members, are strictly forbidden.

Barrister Sarah Belal (Director, JPP) said: “JPP’s Bagram Campaign highlights the plight of the Bagram detainees and the suffering their families have had to endure. Bagram is Guantananamo’s evil twin – a lawless hell-hole and a stain on the US global reputation.’


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Clemency Wells in Reprieve’s Press Office, on: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 /

2. The report is available online today and launched at an all-day event on Thursday September 5th in Pakistan at which family members of detainees will be in attendance. The report is launched alongside a website and exhibition by photographer Asim Rafiqui who travelled around Pakistan meeting and capturing detainees’ families.

3. Real names have been changed in the report to protect anonymity.