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What Will Happen to Secret Prisoners at Bagram as US Withdraws More Forces from Afghanistan?

Kaleem, one of the forever prisoners at Bagram who was detained when he was 14 years-old (Photo from Justice Project Pakistan)

The United States will face a deadline at the end of the year and will apparently no longer have the right to hold prisoners in Afghanistan. It will have to decide what to do with a group of prisoners at Bagram military base, who President Barack Obama’s administration would like to continue to hold in indefinite detention.

According to a report from Reuters, Brigadier General Patrick J. Reinert, the current facility’s commander, said, “We’ve got to resolve their fate by either returning them to their home country or turning them over to the Afghans for prosecution or any other number of ways that the Department of Defense has to resolve.” The administration is considering transferring the prisoners to the US court system or possibly Guantanamo Bay.

“If someone has committed a crime overseas that could be a crime also in the United States, a detainee could be transferred back to the United States,” Reinert told Reuters. He also claimed the US would like to “repatriate” the prisoners to “their home countries,” however, “that might not be possible” without “assurances they will not be prosecuted at home or kept in humane conditions.”

Reinert would not tell Reuters how many prisoners are still being held at Bagram in indefinite detention. There are prisoners at the facility, many from Pakistan, whose identities are unknown. If the Obama administration subjected them to rendition and brought them to the US, it would greatly upset human rights groups trying to get these prisoners freed.

“It would be an absolute nightmare if that happened … We don’t even know who they are … Our effort is to ensure all Pakistanis are back before the end of December,” said Maryam Haq, a lawyer with the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP).

The comments come just over a week after the US released 14 Pakistani prisoners from Bagram. It was the “largest ever batch of detainees to be flown in from Bagram,” the JPP declared.

A report by JPP titled, “Closing Bagram: The Other Guantanamo,” was published in May [PDF] and described what families of the forever prisoners have been experiencing, including the impact of enforced secrecy:

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."