New Bagram Rules Seem a Lot Like Old GTMO Rules

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Monday, September 14, 2009 at 1:53 pm

The Obama administration is putting a new plan in place at Afghanistan’s Bagram air field detention facility to bring indefinite detentions there — a practice viewed as a replication of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility’s more noxious functions — to an end. What does it include? Assigning U.S. military officials, who aren’t lawyers, to represent detainees’ interests in administrative hearings, according to The Washington Post. And what does that sound like?

“They’re setting up what amounts to a CSRT,” said David Remes, the legal director of the non-profit Appeal for Justice law firm who represents 19 Guantanamo detainees. A CSRT is the acronym for a Combatant Status Review Tribunal, the old mechanism at Guantanamo to adjudicate not a detainee’s guilt or innocence, but whether he constituted a threat to U.S. national security. Detainees were at the mercy of hearsay evidence and had the burden of proving that they weren’t a threat and the government’s case against them was erroneous. The Bush administration contended that CSRTs provided all the process rights to which Guantanamo detainees were entitled. But in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Boumediene case that detainees were entitled to habeas corpus protections.

And so, Remes said, several years and several thousand miles later, here we are again. U.S District Judge John Bates, a Bush administration appointee, ruled this spring that non-Afghan detainees brought to Bagram have habeas rights, but Afghan detainees at the facility don’t. Remes foresees a protracted fight. “We’ll spend another four years going up to the Supreme Court on the question of Bagram [detainees'] habeas rights,” he said. “It’s another stall. And one I would have expected from the Bush administration but not the Obama administration.”

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