May 6, 2016. Attorneys for three men who are being unlawfully detained in Afghanistan submitted petitions to the United Nations today seeking urgent action by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on Torture. The petitions allege that detainees Musa Akhmadjanov, Sa’id Jamaluddin, and Abdul Fatah are being abused in Afghan custody and were recently transferred to a prison cell block which houses prisoners awaiting execution. They argue that their continued detention in Afghanistan is arbitrary, indefinite, and unlawful because they remain imprisoned despite Afghan courts having ordered all three men released from custody. The petitions ask the Working Group to find that their detention is unlawful and recommend immediate release from Afghan custody.
Each of the three men was originally detained in 2009 and held in U.S. military custody at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. U.S. authorities eventually determined that the men posed no threat to the United States or its allies and no longer wished to detain them. However, all three men continued to be imprisoned in U.S. custody without access to counsel or any meaningful opportunity to challenge their imprisonment for the next five years.
Jamaluddin and Fatah are brothers who were born in Tajikistan, and Akhmadjanov was born in Uzbekistan. Each of the men faces a substantial risk of torture or death if returned to his native country and therefore cannot be repatriated. Under international law, the U.S. government was under an obligation to release and resettle the men to safe third countries. It failed to do so. Instead, when the U.S. government finally ended its detention operations in Afghanistan in December 2014, it transferred the remaining prisoners (including Akhmadjanov, Jamaluddin and Fatah) to the custody of the Afghan government.
In 2015, the government of Afghanistan allowed the men to have their cases heard in Afghan courts. Akhmadjanov was accused of having associations with anti-government groups, but the court found that there was no evidence to support the claim and ordered himreleased. Abdul Fatah and Sa’id Jamaluddin were tried and convicted of entering Afghanistan without a visa or proper travel documents, however they were sentenced to time already served and so they too were ordered released.
In January 2016, all three men went on a hunger strike to protest their continued detention, conditions of confinement, and mistreatment. Afghan authorities then transferred the men to a cell block which houses prisoners on “death row” and other violent offenders. The petitions filed today allege that they have been beaten and/or abused while in Afghan custody, and are currently being denied adequate food, clothing and access to medical care.
The detainees are represented by the International Justice Network and Yale Law School’s Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic.