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File:Aerial view of the new Bagram Theater Internment Facility.jpg

Aerial view of Bagram Theater Internment Facility in 2009.

File:Constructing the new BTIF -a.jpg

Main gate of the facility.

The Bagram Theater Internment Facility -- named for the Bagram theater of war -- is a United States detention facility constructed in 2002 and located at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.[1][2] It was formerly known as the Bagram Collection Point. While initially intended as a temporary location, this facility now has lasted longer and accumulated more detainees than the Guantanamo Bay detention camp [3].

The treatment of inmates at the facility is under scrutiny since the 2002 deaths at Bagram of two Afghan detainees. These incidents led to prisoner abuse charges against several American troops. Concerns about lengthy detentions also have drawn comparisons with U.S. detention centers in Guantanamo Bay on Cuba and Abu Graib in Iraq [4]. In January 2010, Afghan officials agreed to take over responsibility for the detention center [5].

Physical site

File:Constructing the cells at the new BTIF -a.jpg

Constructing the cells at the new BTIF in 2009.

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan the Red Army built Bagram Air Base.[6][7][8] The airfield included large hangars that fell into disrepair after the Soviets left.

When the US military and their allies ousted the Taliban, US forces took possession of the former Soviet base. The US military didn't need the volume of hangar space, so a detention facility was built inside the large unused hangars. Like the first facilities built at Guantanamo's Camp X-Ray, the cells were built of wire mesh. However, only captives held in solitary confinement have a cell of their own.[9] The other captives share larger open cells with other captives.

According to some accounts, captives were provided with shared buckets to use as toilets, and did not have access to running water. [10] Although captives share their cells with dozens of other captives, there are also reports that they are not allowed to speak with one another, or even to look at one another.[9]

During an interview on PBS, Chris Hogan, a former interrogater at Bagram, described the prisoner's cells in early 2002.[11]

"I can't speak to what the conditions may be like now. But in my tenure, the prison population lived in an abandoned Soviet warehouse. The warehouse had a cement floor and it was a huge square-footage area.

"On the floor of that, what must have been some sort of an airplane hangar, six prison cages were erected, which were divided by concertina wire ... Those prison cages had a wooden floor, a platform built above the cement floor of the hangar. Each prisoner had a bunch of blankets, a small mat, and in the back of each one of those cages was a makeshift toilet, the same type of toilet that the soldiers used, which was a 50-gallon drum, halved with diesel fuel put in the bottom of it and a wooden kind of seat to that platform ... It's very similar, incidentally, to the conditions that the soldiers lived in; almost identical."

According to an article by Tim Golden, published in the January 7, 2008 issue of the New York Times, captives in the Bagram facility were still being housed in large communal pens.[12]

Torture and prisoner abuse

File:Bagram Theater Internment Facility sally port.jpg

A sally port used in the transfer of internees to and from the 12 man cells during the nine years the "temporary" facility was in use.

At least two deaths have been verified: captives are known to have been beaten to death by GIs manning the facility, in December 2002.[13]

Captives who were confined to both Bagram and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp have recounted that, while in Bagram, they were warned that if they didn't cooperate more fully, they would be sent to a worse site in Cuba.[14][15] Captives who have compared the two camps have said that conditions were far worse in Bagram.[16]

In May 2010, nine Afghan former detainees reported to the ICRC that they had been held in a separate facility (known as the black jail) where they had been subject to isolation in cold cells, sleep deprivation, and other forms of torture. The U.S. military denies there is a separate facility for detainees.[17]

High profile escapes

When the GIs implicated in the December 2002 homicides were about to face court martial, four prisoners escaped from Bagram. At least one of these was a prosecution witness, and was thus unable to testify[7][18].

Legal status of detainees

The George W. Bush administration avoided using the label "prisoner of war" when discussing the detainees held at Bagram, preferring to immediately classify them as "unlawful enemy combatants". This way, it is not necessary under the Geneva Conventions to have a competent tribunal determine their classification. (In previous conflicts such as the Vietnam War, Army Regulation 190-8 Tribunals determined the status of prisoners of war.)

The administration also initially argued that these detainees could not access the US legal system. However, the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Rasul v. Bush confirmed that captives in US jurisdiction did indeed have the right to access US courts. Rasul v. Bush determined that the Executive Branch did not have the authority, under the United States Constitution, to suspend the right for detainees to submit writs of habeas corpus.

Another consequence of the Supreme Court's ruling in Rasul v. Bush was the establishment of Combatant Status Review Tribunals to review and confirm the information that initially lead each captive to be classified as an enemy combatant. The Department of Defense (DoD) convened these tribunals for every captive in Guantanamo Bay, but they did not apply to Bagram. The current legal process governing the status of Bagram captives is the Enemy Combatant Review Board, described by Eliza Griswold in The New Republic[2]:

Prisoners don't even have the limited access to lawyers available to prisoners in Guantánamo. Nor do they have the right to Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which Guantánamo detainees won in the 2004 Supreme Court ruling in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. Instead, if a combat commander chooses, he can convene an Enemy Combatant Review Board (ECRB), at which the detainee has no right to a personal advocate, no chance to speak in his own defense, and no opportunity to review the evidence against him. The detainee isn't even allowed to attend. And, thanks to such limited access to justice, many former detainees say they have no idea why they were either detained or released.

On February 20, 2009, the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama announced it would continue the policy that detainees in Afghanistan could not challenge their detention in US courts.[19]

On April 2, 2009 US District Court Judge John D. Bates ruled that those Bagram captives who had been transferred from outside Afghanistan could use habeas corpus.[20]

The BBC quoted Ramzi Kassem, lawyer for one of the men:

"Today, a US federal judge ruled that our government cannot simply kidnap people and hold them beyond the law."

The Obama administration appealed the ruling. A former Guantanamo Bay defense attorney, Neal Katyal, led the government's case.[21][22]

The decision was reversed on May 21, 2010, the appeals court unanimously ruling that Bagram detainees have no right to habeas corpus hearings.[23]

There is a reason we have never allowed enemy prisoners detained overseas in an active war zone to sue in federal court for their release. It simply makes no sense and would be the ultimate act of turning the war into a crime.

Senator Lindsey Graham

Captives access to video link

On January 15, 2008 the International Committee of the Red Cross and the US military set up a pilot project to allow prisoners in Bagram to communicate with visitors over a videolink.[24] The ICRC will provide captives' families with a subsidy to cover their travel expenses to the video-link's studio.

General Douglas Stone's report on the Bagram captives

According to National Public Radio a General in the United States Marine Corps Reserve recently filed a 700 page report on the Bagram internment facility and its captives.[25][26] According to senior officials who have been briefed by Major General Douglas Stone, he reports, "up to 400 of the 600 prisoners at the U.S.-run prison at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan have done nothing wrong and should be released." According to Daphne Eviatar, writing in the Washington Independent, Stone recommended that the USA should try to rehabilitate any genuine enemies it holds, rather than simply imprisoning them.

General Stanley McChrystal's assessment

According to Chris Sands, writing in The National, in a leaked report General Stanley McChrystal wrote: “Committed Islamists are indiscriminately mixed with petty criminals and sex offenders, and they are using the opportunity to radicalise and indoctrinate them... hundreds are held without charge or without a defined way ahead”.[27]

According to The Guardian McChrystal wrote[28]: “There are more insurgents per square foot in corrections facilities than anywhere else in Afghanistan. Unchecked, Taliban/al-Qaida leaders patiently co-ordinate and plan, unconcerned with interference from prison personnel or the military.”


On August 23, 2009 the United States Department of Defense reversed its policy on revealing the names of its captives in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the Bagram Theater Internment Facility.[29][30] and announced that heir names would be released to the International Committee of the Red Cross. In January 2010, the names of 645 detainees were released. This list was prompted by a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in September 2009 by the American Civil Liberties Union, whose lawyers had also demanded detailed information about conditions, rules and regulations [31][32].

Reports of new Bagram review boards

On September 12, 2009 it was widely reported that unnamed officials told Eric Schmitt of the New York Times that the Obama administration was going to introduce new procedures that would allow the captives held in Bagram, and elsewhere in Afghanistan, to have their detention reviewed.[33][34][35][36][37] Josh Gerstein, of Politico, reported Tina Foster, director of the International Justice Network, and a lawyer who represents four Bagram captives, was critical of the new rules:

“These sound almost exactly like the rules the Bush Administration crafted for Guanatmamo that were struck down by the Supreme Court or at least found to be an inadequate substitute for judicial review. They’re adopting this thing that [former Vice President] Cheney and his lot dreamt up out of whole cloth. To adopt Gitmo-like procedures seems to me like sliding in the wrong direction.”

According to Radio Free Europe, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director, Sam Zia Zarifi, paraphrasing Major General Douglas M. Stone's report on the USA's detentions in Afghanistan: "pointed out that the lack of a legal structure for Bagram means that it is undermining the rule of law in Afghanistan and it has caused a lot of resentment among Afghans.".[38]

New facilities

Permanent replacement facilities for the original temporary facilities constructed in 2001 were completed in September 2009.[39] According to The Nation transfer of the 700 captives to the new facilities will begin in late November 2009 completed by the end of 2009. Brigadier General Mark Martins, Bagram's commandant, told reporters that the facility had always met international and domestic standards.

Although the new facility is near the previous facility, it DoD sources sometimes refer to it as the Parwan facility, as if it had no link to the original Bagram facility.[40]

Captives reported to have been held in Bagram

According to Tim Golden of the New York Times the number of captives held in Bagram has doubled since 2004, while the number of captives held in Guantanamo has been halved.[12] The Department of Defense stopped transferring captives apprehended in Afghanistan to Guantanamo following the Supreme Court's ruling in Rasul v. Bush.

A graphic published to accompany Golden's article showed approximately 300 captives in Bagram, and approximately 600 in Guantanamo, in May 2004, and showed the reverse in December 2007.[41]

Name Notes
762 Abaidullah
307 Abd Al Nasir Mohammed Abd Al Qadir Khantumani
  • Sent to Bagram after several days of beatings by Afghan soldiers in Gardez.[43].
  • Eventually sent to Guantanamo.[44]
489 Abd Al Rahim Abdul Rassak Janko
  • Passed directly from Taliban custody to American custody.[45]
  • Taliban believed he was an American spy.
686 Abdel Ghalib Ahmad Hakim
  • Testified to his Combatatant Status Review Tribunal that he had spent months in detention in Pakistani custody, and then in American custody, in Kandahar and Bagram, prior to being transferred to Cuba.[46] He said none of his interrogators had asked him questions that implied they thought he was affiliated with Al Qaida until after he came to Cuba.
1463 Abdul Al Salam Al Hilal
963 Abdul Bagi
  • Testified, to his Combatant Status Review Tribunal, that he learned,seven days after his capture, in Bagram, that he was accused of tossing a rifle down a well,[51]
  • Would have arrived in Bagram on February 17, 2003.[51]
  • Eventually transferred to Guantanamo.[44]
502 Abdul Bin Mohammed Bin Abess Ourgy
1032 Abdul Ghaffar
954 Abdul Ghafour
1007 Abdul Halim Sadiqi
  • Alleged to have sent students from Pakistani madrassas to serve as fighters in Afghanistan.[52]
Abdul Jabar
  • A 35-year-old taxi driver who testified he was held near Dilawar and experienced similar abuse.[53]
1002 Abdul Matin
874 Abdul Nasir
Abdul Razaq
306 Abdul Salam Zaeef
Abdul Salaam
753 Abdul Zahir
897 Abdur Rahim
  • One of the passengers in Dilawar's jitney taxi.[16]
  • Testified to the same kind of abuse that killed Dilawar.[16]
Abdul Wahid
  • Beaten to death in Bagram on November 6, 2003.[56]
332 Abdullah Al Tayabi
Abdullah Shahab
452 Oybek Jamoldinivich Jabbarov
Abu Yahia al-Libi
940 Adel Hassan Hamad
  • Captured with five other men from the village of Kirmati, near Gardez city in late May 2002. and his brother [57]
845 Akhtar Mohammed
  • Captured with five other men from the village of Kirmati, near Gardez city in late May 2002. and his brother [57]
  • A veteran of struggle against Afghanistan's Soviet invaders, in the 1980s, captured in early 2004, who reports he never learned why he was apprehended.[9][58]
  • Claims he was held for a year in solitary confinement in Bagram.[9]
948 Anwar Khan (Guantanamo detainee 948)
152 Asim Thahit Abdullah Al Khalaqi
  • A Yemeni who was in Afghanistan as a Tablighi Jamaat pilgrim and was trapped in Afghanistan when the borders were closed following 9-11.[59]
256 Atag Ali Abdoh Al-Haj
782 Awal Gul
817 Richard Belmar
975 Bostan Karim
BT421[60] Dilawar
  • Beaten to death in Bagram on December 10, 2002.[56]
680 Emad Abdalla Hassan
888 Esmatulla
688 Fahmi Abdullah Ahmed
Fazal Ahmad
987 Ghalib
516 Ghanim Abdul Rahman Al Harbi
Ghanum Gul
1021 Gul Chaman
Gul Mohammed
Gul Rehman
907 Habib Rahman
  • Beaten to death in Bagram on December 4, 2002.[56]
1001 Hafizullah Shabaz Khail
  • Spent five years in Guantanamo, was cleared for release in December 2007, and subsequently rearrested in September 2008.[61]
  • His American lawyer believes he was rearrested because US military officials in Afghanistan failed to update their records to show he had been cleared for release.[61]
Hakkim Shah
  • A 32-year-old farmer who testified he was held near Dilawar and experienced similar abuse.[53]
Hamid Ullah
1119 Haji Hamidullah
Hasan Balgaid
940 Hassan Adel Hussein
94 Ibrahim Daif Allah Neman Al Sehli
Jan Baz Khan
Jawed Ahmad
  • An Afghan journalist working as a cameraman for the Canadian CTV network who was accused of being in possession of video of members of the Taliban.[63][64]
  • The American base commander confirmed that a review Board determined that he was an "unlawful enemy combatant".[65][66]
1095 Jumma Jan
586 Karam Khamis Sayd Khamsan
589 Khalid Mahomoud Abdul Wahab Al Asmr
831 Khandan Kadir
  • A pharmacist who was hired by the new government of Afghanistan's to be Khowst's regional director of the anti-narcotics branch of its new Intelligence service.[62]
  • Denounced and captured by Jan Baz, a local militia leader who was himself captured by the Americans, four months later.[62]
  • Eventually transferred to Guantanamo.[44]
Khoja Mohammad
  • Captured with five other men from the village of Kirmati, near Gardez city in late May 2002. and his brother [57]
660 Lufti Bin Swei Lagha
1052 Mahbub Rahman
519 Mahrar Rafat Al Quwari
Malik Abdual Rahim
939 Mammar Ameur
558 Moazzam Begg
909 Mohabet Khan
333 Mohamed Atiq Awayd Al Harbi
Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah
900 Mohamed Jawad
7 Mohammad Fazil
849 Mohammed Nasim
681 Mohammed Mohammed Hassen
1008 Mohammed Mustafa Sohail
Mohammad Naim
  • Captured with five other men from the village of Kirmati, near Gardez city in late May 2002. and his brother [57]
955 Mohammed Quasam
Mohammed Salim
532 Mohammed Sharif
Mohammed Yaqoub Akhounzada
1004 Mohammed Yacoub
Mubibbullah Khan
Muhammed Dawood
839 Musab Omar Ali Al Mudwani
Maulvi Naeem
967 Naserullah
1019 Nasibullah
Nazar Mohammed
727 Omar Deghayes
  • Has stated that Bagram was worse than Guantanamo.[68]
  • Testified before the inquiry into Dilawar's death that he was suspended from the ceiling for 8 to 10 days.[53]
591 Qari Esmhatulla
Raheem Ullah
835 Rasool Shahwali Zair Mohammed Mohammed
  • An Afghan whose family had fled to Pakistan to escape the decades of warfare in Afghanistan. He and his brothers had been educated in Pakistan, and he had trained to become a medical technician. In response to Hamid Karzai's entreaties for educated expatriate Afghans to return he and his brother had returned and set up a medical clinic in their families traditional home. His brother Shahwali Zair Mohammed Shaheen Naqeebyllah was a doctor, and he ran the lab.
  • The first American officer commanding a small nearby outpost had relied on his brother for introductions to all the local elders, because he was an educated, Western-oriented man, who spoke English.[69] Because his brother had introduced them, the local elders directed all of their requests to the Americans through him. So his brother started writing a series of notes to the local American officer.
  • When the first American officer was replaced, his brother continued to write these notes to his replacement—who regarded them as threats and arrested the two brothers.[69]
Raz Mohammad
Redha al-Najar
  • A Tunisian, captured at his home in Karachi in May 2005 who spent two years in the CIA's black sites prior to being sent to Bagram.[70]
945 Said Amir Jan
1035 Sada Jan
1056 Said Mohammed
1154 Said Mohammed Ali Shah
311 Saiid Farhi
Samoud Khan
  • Three Guantanamo captives testified that Samoud Khan had lead the platoon sized armed band they were captured with, most of their group escaped, but they were told that Samoud was still in Bagram.[71][71][72][73]
Sardar Khan
Sardar Mohammad
Saud Memon
  • Alleged to have played a role in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl.[74][75][76]
  • Disappeared shortly after Pearl's murder, only to be left on the doorsteps of his family in April 2007.[74][75][76]
  • Saud Memon's weight had dropped to 36 kilograms; he was unable to recognize his relatives; and died less than a month after his release.[74][75][76]
  • On November 12, 2007 the Wall Street Journal reported that he had been held and interrogated in Bagram.[74][75][76]
914 Shardar Khan
944 Sharifullah
899 Shawali Khan
834 Shahwali Zair Mohammed Shaheen Naqeebyllah
  • An Afghan whose family had fled to Pakistan to escape the decades of warfare in Afghanistan. He and his brothers had been educated in Pakistan, and he had worked his way through medical school. In response to Hamid Karzai's entreaties for educated expatriate Afghans to return he and his brother had returned and set up a medical clinic in their families traditional home. His brother Rasool Shahwali Zair Mohammed Mohammed was a trained medical technician, who ran the modern medical lab they set up in their clinic.
  • The first American officer commanding a small nearby outpost had relied on him for introductions to all the local elders, because he was an educated, Western-oriented man, who spoke English.[69] Because he had introduced them, the local elders directed all of their requests to the Americans through him. So he started writing a series of notes to the local American officer.
  • When the first American officer was replaced, he continued to write these notes to his replacement—who regarded them as threats and arrested the brothers.[69]
  • Captured with five other men from the village of Kirmati, near Gardez city in late May 2002. and his brother [57]
933 Swar Khan
902 Taj Mohammed
535 Tariq Mahmoud Ahmed Al Sawah
Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil
  • The Taliban's last Foreign Minister, released in the fall of 2003.[77]
  • The BBC reports he sent an envoy to warn the USA a month prior to al Qaeda's attack on 9-11, and that he had argued for turning over Osama bin Laden in September 2001.[78]
550 Walid Said Bin Said Zaid
Haji Wazir
  • Captured in 2002, filed a writ of habeas corpus in 2006, still held in Bagram as of December 2008.[79]
Haji Wazir
  • Held for ten months, and released in 2006.[80]
898 Zakim Shah
  • A 20-year-old farmer who testified he was held near Dilawar and experienced similar abuse.[53]
Zafir Khan
Zalmay Shah

See also


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