Federal court rules government not required to disclose Bagram detainee information

[JURIST] The US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] denied a request [opinion, PDF] Monday for documents regarding the detention and treatment of prisoners being held at Bagram Air Base [official website; JURIST news archive] in Afghanistan. Judge Barbara Jones granted summary judgment for the government, denying the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] access to the documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text]. The ACLU had sought documents with information on "detainees' citizenships, dates of capture, length of detention at Bagram, locations of capture and circumstances of capture." The court held that the government is not required to confirm the existence nor nonexistence of such documents because of the potential harm to national security. ACLU staff attorney Melissa Goodman criticized [press release] the decision:

The public has a right to know how long the U.S. has kept people locked up in military detention and under what circumstances. The lack of transparency about these key facts is even more disturbing considering the possibility that the U.S. will continue holding and interrogating prisoners at Bagram well into the future. Unfortunately, today's ruling will allow the government to continue hiding this vital information.
Earlier this year, the US Department of Defense [official website] released a list of names of 645 prisoners then detained at Bagram in response to the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit [JURIST reports].

In May, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled that detainees held at Bagram cannot bring habeas corpus challenges in US courts [JURIST report]. In April, the Red Cross confirmed the existence of a secret detention facility [JURIST report] at Bagram. The existence of secret prisons has also drawn criticism from the human rights experts. In June, UN rights experts called on the UN Human Rights Council [official website] to investigate findings from a report [JURIST report] released earlier this year detailing the secret imprisonment of terrorism suspects by 66 countries including the US, Ethiopia, Romania and Pakistan. UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Manfred Nowak [official website] indicated that secret prisons [JURIST news archive] remain a widespread problem and can often lead to torture.

 

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