Some Bagram Prisoners Have Same Rights As Those At Gitmo

It’s getting more complicated with the legal issues of detainees from the War against Terror. A federal judge has now ruled that some of the long-term prisoners at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan have the same rights as the ones at Gitmo.
Appointed by former President George W. Bush, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled that prisoners who were shipped to Bagram from outside of Afghanistan are legally “virtually identical” to those being held at Guantanamo Bay.

Al Jazeera reports:

“Bagram detainees who are not Afghan citizens, who were not captured in Afghanistan and who have been held for an unreasonable amount of time” may invoke the right to trial, John Bates, a US district judge, ruled in Washington on Thursday.

Citing the Supreme Court’s ruling of the right to habeas corpus that has been extended to Gitmo, Justice Bates ruled that the prisoners that fit the classification at Bagram also have the right to challenge their detention in front of a judge. This ruling is at odds with the Obama Administration. In February President Obama said that those at Bagram have no right to sue in federal court.

Judge Bates applied a six-part test set out by the Supreme Court in its decision in the case Boumediene v. Bush.

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

“It is one thing to detain those captured on the surrounding battlefield at a place like Bagram, which [government lawyers] correctly maintain is in a theater of war,” Bates said. “It is quite another thing to apprehend people in foreign countries – far from any Afghan battlefield – and then bring them to a theater of war, where the Constitution arguably may not reach.”

It is not clear how many of the prisoners at Bagram were captured aboard. Government lawyers say that the number of those detainees is classified. Because of that status portions of Judge Bates’ 53-page opinion had to be redacted with notations that they relate to classified information.

UPI reports:

“This is a great day for American justice,” said Ramzi Kassem, a lawyer for one of the detainees. “Today, a U.S. federal judge ruled that our government cannot simply kidnap people and hold them beyond the law.”

The case before Judge Bates centered on two Yemenis, a Tunisian and also an Afghan national. Bates ruled in favor for the all but Haji Wazir, the Afghan national. Bates wrote that releasing Wazir could create “practical obstacles in the form of friction with the host country.”

Bates said that the detainees at Bagram have even fewer rights than those at Gitmo when it comes to legal issues. Bagram detainees must represent themselves while those at Guantanamo are allowed a personal representative to assist them in reviewing their detention status.

“Obvious obstacles, including language and cultural differences, obstruct effective self-representation,” the judge said. “Detainees cannot even speak for themselves; they are only permitted to submit a written statement. But in submitting that statement, detainees do not know what evidence the United States relies upon to justify an ‘enemy combatant’ designation – so they lack meaningful opportunity to rebut that evidence,” the opinion said.

This ruling could mean hundreds of additional prisoners could seek a hearing in court to challenge the government’s basis for detaining them.

There are about 240 prisoners remaining at Gitmo. There are more than 600 prisoners at Bagram.

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