August 27, 2009, New York, NY -- International Justice Network (IJNetwork), the organization representing detainees at the US Airbase in Bagram, Afghanistan, today announced that it will appeal the dismissal of a lawsuit filed on behalf of Haji Pacha Wazir, an Afghan national who has been detained without charge for nearly seven years
The appeal will challenge a June 28, 2009 court decision by Judge John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that dismissed Mr. Wazir's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Judge Bates granted the Obama Administration's request to dismiss Mr. Wazir's case for lack of jurisdiction, but attorneys for Mr. Wazir will now appeal that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Mr. Wazir, a well-respected owner of a successful transfer and currency exchange business in Afghanistan, was kidnapped by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2002 while on a business trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Originally filed by International Justice Network in September 2006, Mr. Wazir's petition argues that there is no factual or legal basis for his detention, and seeks his immediate release from U.S. custody.
In a related decision by Judge Bates in April 2009, IJNetwork defeated the Obama Administration's attempt to dismiss the petitions of three non-Afghan nationals held at Bagram. In his April decision, Judge Bates held that the Court had jurisdiction to hear the cases of two Yemenis detainees and one Tunisian who -- like Mr. Wazir -- were detained outside of Afghanistan and brought to Bagram by the U.S. government.
The District Court's decision distinguished Mr. Wazir's case based on his Afghan citizenship. Despite having been taken into custody outside Afghanistan and rendered to Bagram by the U.S government, Judge Bates found that Mr. Wazir had no right to challenge his detention, citing potential "friction" with the Afghan government.
IJNetwork attorneys representing Mr. Wazir submitted additional evidence obtained from the Afghan Attorney General's office to prove that Mr. Wazir had already been cleared for release by relevant Afghan authorities. In their response, lawyers for the Obama Administration conceded that Mr. Wazir has been cleared for release by the Afghan government. However, Judge Bates declined to consider that fact in dismissing Mr. Wazir's petition for lack of jurisdiction.
IJNetwork Executive Director, Tina Monshipour Foster issued the following statement today on behalf of the organization:
IJNetwork's appeal of Judge Bates decision is necessary not only to vindicate Mr. Wazir, but to challenge a legal decision which essentially gives the Obama Administration and the CIA the 'green light' to continue Bush-era policies such as illegal rendition and secret detention. The Administration has taken the position that it can continue to shroud Bagram in secrecy. These practices include blocking prisoners' access to lawyers and refusing to disclose any facts about the capture, transfer or subsequent treatment of individuals in the sole custody of the United States. If left unchallenged, the District Court's decision would allow the U.S. government to continue to deny our client the right to know the legal and factual allegations against him. Adding insult to injury, Mr. Wazir was denied access to U.S. Courts based on the sole distinguishing fact that he is an Afghan national. Unlike our Yemeni and Tunisian clients whose cases were not dismissed, Mr. Wazir is being denied fundamental legal and human rights based on his Afghan citizenship. We will ask the Court of Appeals to remedy the obvious injustice of denying Afghan nationals the same rights afforded other foreign nationals at Bagram.