U.S. General: Most Bagram Detainees Should Be Released

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Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 9:00 am

A U.S. Marine reservist and general has created a detailed report recommending that up to 400 of the 600 prisoners at the U.S.-run prison at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan have done nothing wrong and should be released, NPR reports.

Lawyers have been making that argument for years now, but the United States has insisted that the prisoners at Bagram have no right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court. The Obama administration recently appealed a federal court’s ruling that some of the prisoners do indeed have that right.

Now, notwithstanding any constitutional concerns, Maj. Gen. Doug Stone is reportedly recommending that the United States completely revamp its detention policy in Afghanistan, focusing on rehabilitating rather than simply imprisoning the detainees. He also acknowledges that the vast majority of the men held at Bagram were likely swept up in raids yet had not engaged in hostilities against the United States.

As I’ve written before, many of the prisoners at Bagram have been held there for six or seven years without charge or access to lawyers. Stone worries that imprisoning them without charge or an ability to defend themselves for years will turn them into hardened anti-American radicals.

Stone’s 700-page report is not yet available, but he has reportedly briefed senior U.S. officials on his findings, including the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal; Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan; and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Stone earlier helped revamp the prison system in Iraq.

McChrystal is expected to address the issue of detention facilities in an assessment of Afghanistan due within the next few weeks.

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