Human rights groups shocked by refusal to reverse Bush policy in Afghanistan
Less than a month after signing an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, President Barack Obama has quietly agreed to keep denying the right to trial to hundreds more terror suspects held at a makeshift camp in Afghanistan that human rights lawyers have dubbed “Obama’s Guantanamo”.
In a single-sentence answer filed with a Washington court, the administration dashed hopes that it would immediately rip up Bush-era policies that have kept more than 600 prisoners in legal limbo and in rudimentary conditions at the Bagram air base, north of Kabul.
Now, human rights groups say they are becoming increasingly concerned that the use of extra-judicial methods in Afghanistan could be extended rather than curtailed under the new US administration. The air base is about to undergo a $60m (£42m) expansion that will double its size, meaning it can house five times as many prisoners as remain at Guantanamo.
Apart from staff at the International Red Cross, human rights groups and journalists have been barred from Bagram, where former prisoners say they were tortured by being shackled to the ceiling of isolation cells and deprived of sleep.
The base became notorious when two Afghan inmates died after the use of such techniques in 2002, and although treatment and conditions have been improved since then, the Red Cross issued a formal complaint to the US government in 2007 about harsh treatment of some prisoners held in isolation for months.
60 Minutes: Obama Reiterates Promise To Close Guantanamo Bay, End Torture