As last week marked the sixth anniversary of the arrival of the first orange-jumpsuit-clad prisoners at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, human-rights organizations are attempting to focus public and congressional scrutiny on what some are calling “the other Gitmo”.
This is a prison located on the US military base in the ancient city of Bagram near Charikar in Parvan, Afghanistan. The detention center was set up by the US military as a temporary screening site after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan overthrew the Taliban. It currently houses about 630 prisoners – close to three times as many as are still held at Guantanamo.
In 2005, following well-documented accounts of detainee deaths, torture and “disappeared” prisoners, the US undertook efforts to turn the facility over to the Afghan government. But, thanks to a series of legal, bureaucratic and administrative missteps, the prison is still under American military control. And a recent confidential report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reportedly complained about the continued mistreatment of prisoners.
The ICRC report is said to cite massive overcrowding, “harsh” conditions, lack of clarity about the legal basis for detention, prisoners held “incommunicado” in “a previously undisclosed warren of isolation cells”, and “sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions”. Some prisoners have been held without charges or lawyers for more than five years. The Red Cross said dozens of prisoners have been held incommunicado for weeks or even months, hidden from prison inspectors. [complete article]