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Bagram abuse allegations: Full 'war on terror' inquiry needed

Newly released interviews with former Bagram detainees by the BBC are a timely reminder of the continuing need for accountability, transparency and for the human rights of those held by the USA in Afghanistan to be fully protected, said Amnesty International today.

Amnesty has also reiterated its call on the US authorities to establish a full independent commission of inquiry into all aspects of the USA’s detention and interrogation regime in what the Bush administration dubbed the “war on terror”.

The former detainees, held in Bagram at various times between 2002-2008, told the BBC they had been subjected to abuse in US custody, including beatings, stress positions, extremes of temperature, stripping, sleep deprivation and death threats.

Findings by the BBC are consistent with Amnesty’s own research, including interviews with former Bagram detainees.

Amnesty International US Researcher Rob Freer said:

“The allegations are familiar. So, too, is the absence of accountability and remedy for such abuses.

“The USA continues to fail to meet its international obligation to fully investigate all such allegations and bring to account all those responsible for authorising and carrying out human rights violations.”

Amnesty International regrets that the new government has so far adopted wholesale the approach of its predecessor on the legal rights of the Bagram detainees. The organisation has been calling on President Obama and his government to recognise the right of the detainees to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in an independent and impartial court.

In a letter last month, the Pentagon told Amnesty International that there were “approximately 565” detainees held in Bagram. Little is known about who they are, the circumstances of their arrests, or their current treatment and conditions of detention. None has access to legal counsel or the courts.

In response to the organisation’s concerns about child detainees, the Pentagon stated that since 2002 US forces had detained “approximately 100 juveniles in Afghanistan”, of whom “fewer than five” were still held. The letter gave no other details on the Bagram detentions, saying that the information Amnesty had requested was either classified or the subject of ongoing litigation in federal court.

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