Bagram “worse than Guantanamo,” says rights attorney

Some surprisingly good CBS reporting on Bagram Airbase as the new legal black hole, secret prison of the Obama administration:

There are now 3,000 detainees in Bagram, up from 1,700 since June (!) and five times the amount there when Barack Obama took office. Many of them have not been charged, have seen no evidence against them and do not have the right to be represented by a lawyer, aren’t given fair trials, and the U.S. claims it is not even obligated to explain why these people are caged. Ah, change.

Note the comment by Daphne Eviatar, an attorney for Human Rights First, who investigated Bagram detainees and their rights (lack thereof?). She said “It’s worse than Guantanamo, because there are fewer rights.” Antiwar Radio host Scott Horton interviewed Eviatar in June, listen here.

And we shouldnt forget that it doesn’t end there. This report released about a year ago now from the Open Society Institute had human rights researcher Jonathan Horowitz investigate a little-known black site run by U.S. Special Operations forces adjacent to the Bagram facilities. The report detailed “sleep deprivation, holding detainees in cold cells, forced nudity, physical abuse, detaining individuals in isolation cells for longer than 30 days, and restricting the access of the International Committee of the Red Cross.” Add to that further the two teenagers, Issa Mohammad, then 17, and Abdul Rashid, then 16,  told the Washington Post that they were subjected to all of these abuses, including being punched and slapped in the face. One prisoner at this site, which the US military denied even existed, lost an entire row of teeth from being hit in the face with the butt of gun by an American soldier while in custody.

Eviatar’s most important piece of wisdom was of course the following: “We’re not going to win this war by making enemies of the local population, and unfortunately sweeping people up and putting them in prison without a fair hearing makes enemies of the local population,” Eviatar said. “And the problem with holding thousands of people, a large number of whom probably do not pose a danger, is that you create tremendous resentment among not only those people but their families, their extended families, their villages, the families they left behind who now don’t have a bread winner.”

Another report by the Open Society Institute reported that Obama’s use of night raids has more than tripled in Afghanistan. “An estimated 12 to 20 night raids now occur per night,” according to the report, “resulting in thousands of detentions per year, many of whom are non-combatants.” And many of the associated tactics, like “mass detention operations, holding entire villages for questioning on site for prolonged periods of time,” may violate international law. I would venture to guess many of these thousands of prisoners being treated like cattle in Bagram were originally picked up in night raids, which senior commanders in the Joint Special Operations Command said get the wrong guy about 50 percent of the time.

I wonder how much we’ll hear about this in the upcoming election debates. The Republicans candidates have been openly advocating torture, so we know they’ll only applaud Obama’s stripping of basic human rights. Smells like bipartisanship.