U.S. Prison in Afghanistan Has 10 Times as Many Prisoners as Guantánamo

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Bagram Prison (photo: Department of the Army)
Guantánamo has become synonymous with the U.S. effort to hold detainees, which in turn has given the impression that the military prison in Cuba is the hub of this policy. But Guantánamo is by no means the largest prison for detainees—that distinction resides with the Bagram military base in Afghanistan.
While the number held at Guantánamo is currently estimated to be about 170, the total imprisoned at Bagram is about 1,700. The two prisons have been moving in opposite directions in terms of their detainee numbers, with Guantánamo shrinking from a high of more than 700 to its present count.
Bagram, though, has been growing in recent years. Its detainee total has tripled in size since 2008, with more than 1,300 suspects arrested and imprisoned in 2010 alone.
Another distinction between the two facilities is that detainees at the Afghanistan prison have fewer rights than their counterparts at Guantánamo.
“At Guantanamo, detainees have the right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court and to representation by a lawyer,” states a report by Human Rights First. “At Bagram, detainees are given only rudimentary hearings. These hearings provide even fewer rights than did the Guantanamo Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT) that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 declared inadequate to meet U.S. constitutional obligations”
Nonetheless, this is an improvement over the conditions during the George W. Bush era. According to Human Rights First, “the Obama administration now allows detainees to attend at least a portion of a hearing and address a board of U.S. military officers. Each detainee is assigned a ‘personal representative’ to help present his case, and is entitled to a new status hearing every six months.”
On the other hand, “‘personal representatives’ are uniformed U.S. soldiers with no legal background or training in the culture or language of the detainees they represent. Moreover, with only 15 such representatives assigned to Bagram at the time of this report, each representative is responsible for the defense of more than 100 detainees.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Detained and Denied in Afghanistan (Human Rights First) (pdf)


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