President Obama’s Justice Department today, in a two-sentence filing, backed the Bush administration’s position on the 600 or more detainees being held at the U.S. military’s detention facility at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The department reaffirmed that the prisoners are not entitled to any constitutional rights and, most importantly, may not challenge their detention in a U.S. court.
As I’ve written before, the legal battle over the rights of prisoners at the base, where at least two prisoners have been killed during interrogations, has taken place largely on papers submitted to a federal judge. Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has been presiding over the habeas corpus petitions of four Bagram detainees, all of whom were picked up in different parts of the world and sent to Bagram for indefinite detention. The prisoners claim their situation is just like that of the prisoners at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and therefore they deserve the same constitutional rights — as well as the right to have a neutral judge determine whether they’re being held lawfully.
Not so, said the Bush administration. Although human rights lawyers representing the detainees had hoped the Obama administration would change the government’s position and at least grant their clients the right to a hearing, today they were sorely disappointed.
“The hope we all had in President Obama to lead us on a different path has not turned out as we’d hoped,” Tina Monshipour Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network, which has been representing the four men, told the Associated Press. “We all expected better.”
The government still won’t say — at least not publicly — just how many prisoners captured outside of Afghanistan are being held at Bagram.
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