Foreign Policy Blogs

U.S. transfers detainees to Afghanistan jails

Today, RFE/RL Newsline reports that twelve suspected Taliban fighters from Afghanistan will be transferred from Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan to the newly refurbished Pol-e Charki Prison near Kabul.  Soon, other Afghanistani nationals in Guantanamo Bay will also be transferred to Pol-e Charki.   Last year, Financial Times reported that 110 detainees in Guantanamo would be transferred along with 350 prisoners at Bagram AFB. 

Pol-e Charki during 2004 RiotThe Pol-e Charki prison was the focus of an Amnesty International Report in 2003 for its execrable conditions; however, reports also suggest that it was the best of the available prisons.  UNAMA (United Nations Mission to Afghanistan) has been monitoring prison reform in Pol-e Charki.  A 2004 prison riot was blamed upon al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners; however, bad conditions certainly also give rise to prison riots, and poor security due to bad conditions allows them to happen. 

David Bosco of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has an excellent editorial (see link below, well worth a read).  Bosco reports that U.S. voter's and human rights advocates’ disgust with Guantanamo/Bagram is matched by ISAF diplomatic/military reluctance to use any existing, U.S.-promulgated detainee process.  Shoving the detainees into Afghanistan's judicial system ostensibly allows the U.S. to transfer its liability for political prisoners and gives ISAF a chance to develop new protocols for new political prisoner intake and legal reform.   However, given the poor state of Afghanistan's legal system, the detainee transfer development is not likely to give the U.S. a clean slate.  Nor will it give a humanitarian or legal victory.

Selected timeline of articles:
AI's 2003 report on Afghanistan's prisons
BBC report on 2004 Pol-e Charki prison riot and siege
January, 2006 Financial Times report on U.S. plans to use Pol-e Charki
March, 2006 RFE/RL report by Amin Tarzai on prison conditions, another prison breakout, and unanswered questions
September 2006, ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent) report on 2006 activities in Afghanistan
November, 2006 editorial by Mr. Bosco in the Washington Post about detainees, ISAF, interrogation, and prison conditions

To keep up with U.S. detainees, check the FPA War Crimes blog written by my colleague Daniel Graeber

Photo: Xinhuanet