Bagram detention centre now twice the size of Guantanamo

The United States has quietly expanded the number of "enemy combatants" being held in judicial limbo at its Bagram military base in Afghanistan, a facility which has now grown to more than twice the size of the controversial and much more widely discussed military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Bagram has received just a fraction of the world attention paid to Guantanamo, but the two facilities have prompted very similar complaints about prisoners held incommunicado for weeks or months, the lack of recourse to any system of legal redress, and persistent reports of prisoner mistreatment that many human rights campaigners have characterised as torture.

The New York Times, which has seen confidential documents relating to the running of the Bagram prison, reported yesterday that the military base north of Kabul now contains around 630 prisoners, a far greater number than the 275 still being held at a rapidly emptying Guantanamo.

Although conditions are generally reckoned to have improved at Bagram since December 2002, when US officials admitted that its guards beat two Afghan prisoners to death, the base's warren of isolation cells have still prompted high-level complaints from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

As recently as last summer, the ICRC complained that prisoners were being denied access to its inspectors for weeks or months at a time, and were sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions, the newspaper reported.

"The problem at Bagram hasn't gone away," said the human rights lawyer, Tina Foster, who has filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of the detainees. "The government has just done a better job of keeping it secret."

Prisoner numbers have swelled because of the ever deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, and the mounting threat posed by the resurgent Taliban to the fractious pro-American government headed by Hamid Karzai. Since 2005, US officials have harboured plans to hand over the prisoners to the Afghan authorities, who would house them at a brand new $30m (15m) facility financed by the United States on the outskirts of Kabul.

Every aspect of the handover has been mired in problems, however, with the Afghans raising objections to US attempts to persuade them to establish a similar home-grown regime of indefinite detentions and trial by military commission already endorsed by the Bush administration, and the Americans fearing for the security and day-to-day conditions of the proposed new facility.

The agreement first broke down in 2006, soon after a high-security detention centre run by the Afghan military began its US-sponsored overhaul, when President Karzai refused to sign a decree establishing a legal framework for the prisoners based on the discredited Guantanamo model.

The plan then hit crisis point last May when two US soldiers overseeing the project were shot dead by a suspected Taliban sympathiser who had infiltrated the guard corps. The killings led to two months of vetting of the other guards and the dismissal of almost two dozen trained recruits, according to The New York Times.

The first 12 Bagram detainees moved into the new facility at Pul-i-Charkhi prison in April 2006, and those numbers grew to 157 over the next nine months, including 32 transferred from Guantanamo. Despite initial American concerns that the Afghans could not be trusted to imprison such "enemy combatants", it now appears that some prisoners will remain at Bagram indefinitely.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Night job: Pacha nightclub DJ, Joan Ribas, is the new kingmaker on the island
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada