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Terrorism & Security

Investigation: In Afghanistan, routine abuse of terror detainees

An eight-month review by McClatchy newspapers says the US wrongfully imprisoned many suspected Al Qaeda terrorists.

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The latest allegations by McClatchy come at a moment when US detention policy is suffering major setbacks. Last week, the US Supreme Court ruled that habeas corpus, or the right to challenge one's detention, applies to inmates held at Guantánamo Bay, meaning that these detainees have the right to challenge their detention in a court of law. The ruling undermines the premise of US detentions – that prisoners are "enemy combatants" held during wartime and therefore not subject to Constitutional law, reports the BBC.

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Analysts say that the ruling will change the way Washington detains and prosecutes prisoners, reports NPR .

"I think that the decision today is the end of Guantanamo as we know it," said Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal, who represents one of the detainees.
Andrew McBride, who wrote a brief on behalf of former GOP attorneys general siding with the administration, called it a watershed decision: "For the first time in history, it does inject judicial supervision into the conduct of war."

The New York Times writes in a news analysis about Guantánamo:

"To the extent that Guantánamo exists to hold detainees beyond the reach of U.S. courts, this blows a hole in its reason for being," said Matthew Waxman, a former detainee affairs official at the Defense Department.
And without that, much will change.
The decision granted detainees the right to challenge their detention in civilian courts, meaning that federal judges will now have the power to check the government's claims that the 270 men still held there are dangerous terrorists. That will force officials to answer questions about evidence that they have long deflected despite international criticism and expressions of support, from President Bush on down, for closing the camp.

The findings also come at a time when US- and Afghan-run prisons are under increased scrutiny in Afghanistan. Taliban fighters attacked a prison in Kandahar on Friday, resulting in the escape of hundreds of prisoners, reports The Christian Science Monitor. The prison had witnessed frequent protests because of alleged mistreatment. Last month, more than 200 inmates launched a week-long hunger strike in protest of dismal living conditions and abuse, the Associated Press reported.

[S]ome of those on the hunger strike had been held without trial for over two years. Others were given lengthy prison sentences after short trials…. 47 of the prisoners had stitched their mouths shut during the strike....
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said… that the prisoners had complained that foreign troops searched their homes on the basis of faulty intelligence and that they were tortured and humiliated during investigations.
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