"If you, God forbid, are an innocent Afghan who gets sold down the river by
some warlord rival, you can end up at Bagram and you have absolutely no way of
clearing your name," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch in New York. "You
can't have a lawyer present evidence, or do anything organized to get yourself
out of there."
The US government has contended it can hold detainees until the "war on
terror" ends - as it determines.
"I don't think we've gotten to the question of how long," said retired
admiral John D. Hutson, former top lawyer for the US Navy. "When we get up to
'forever,' I think it will be tested" in court, he said.
The Navy is planning long-term at Guantanamo. This fall it expects to open a
new, $30-million maximum-security wing at its prison complex there, a
concrete-and-steel structure replacing more temporary camps.
In Iraq, Army jailers are a step ahead. Last month they opened a $60-million,
state-of-the-art detention center at Camp Cropper, near Baghdad's airport. The
Army oversees about 13,000 prisoners in Iraq at Cropper, Camp Bucca in the
southern desert, and Fort Suse in the Kurdish north.
Neither prisoners of war nor criminal defendants, they are just "security
detainees" held "for imperative reasons of security," spokesman Curry said,
using language from an annex to a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the
US presence here.
Questions of Law, Sovereignty President Bush laid out the US position in a
speech September 6.
"These are enemy combatants who are waging war on our nation," he said. "We
have a right under the laws of war, and we have an obligation to the American
people, to detain these enemies and stop them from rejoining the battle."
But others say there's no need to hold these thousands outside of the rules
for prisoners of war established by the Geneva Conventions.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared last March that the extent of
arbitrary detention here is "not consistent with provisions of international law
governing internment on imperative reasons of security."
Meanwhile, officials of Nouri al-Maliki's 4-month-old Iraqi government say
the US detention system violates Iraq's national rights.
"As long as sovereignty has transferred to Iraqi hands, the Americans have no
right to detain any Iraqi person," said Fadhil al-Sharaa, an aide to the prime
minister. "The detention should be conducted only with the permission of the
At the Justice Ministry, Deputy Minister Busho Ibrahim told AP it has been "a
daily request" that the detainees be brought under Iraqi authority.
There's no guarantee the Americans' 13,000 detainees would fare better under
control of the Iraqi government, which UN officials say holds 15,000 prisoners.
But little has changed because of these requests. When the Americans formally
turned over Abu Ghraib prison to Iraqi control on Sept. 2, it was empty but its
3,000 prisoners remained in US custody, shifted to Camp Cropper.