What's at Stake
In February 2010, the ACLU filed two habeas corpus petitions challenging the illegal detention of four men who have been held — some for nearly two years — at the notorious Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The men — who have never engaged in hostilities against the United States and are not members of groups that have engaged in hostilities against the United States — have never been told why they are being detained, been permitted to speak with a lawyer, or given a meaningful opportunity to challenge their detention before a court or a fair and impartial administrative board.
One of the petitions is on behalf of two Afghan brothers, one of whom served as a translator for the U.S. military for four years before his capture nearly 20 months ago and one of whom was arrested without explanation at his workplace. The other petition is on behalf of an Afghan government employee and his nephew, who were taken from their homes by the U.S. military during a massive neighborhood sweep. The petitions charge that the military does not have the authority to detain these men and that the lack of access to a court or fair process by which to challenge their detention violates the U.S. Constitution and international law.
The United States is the only nation among the NATO countries participating in the conflict in Afghanistan that subjects individuals it captures to indefinite military detention. Other NATO nations reportedly detain individuals for a maximum of 96 hours and then either release them or transfer them to Afghan custody.
There is growing concern that Bagram has become the new Guantánamo, except with hundreds more prisoners held indefinitely, with less due process, in harsher conditions.
Although the U.S. government’s Bagram detention facility has been the focus of widespread media attention and public concern for many years, there is very little information is publically available about the secrecy-shrouded facility or the prisoners held there.