RELEASE (July 18, 2007): The International Justice Network Wins First Victory in U.S. Courts on Behalf of U.S. Detainees Held in Bagram, Afghanistan
Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, July 18, a federal court in Washington, D.C. rejected the U.S. Government's request to dismiss the case of a Yemeni man being held in U.S. custody without charge or trial at a U.S.-run prison in Afghanistan.
The International Justice Network, a new human rights group working to assist people held unlawfully in U.S. prisons around the world and provide support for local human rights efforts, filed a habeas corpus petition to challenge the legality of Mr. Maqelah's detention in October 2006, immediately following Congress's passage of the Military Commissions Act ("MCA").
The MCA purports to strip federal courts of the power to hear any claims brought by non-citizens held in U.S. custody outside the geographic boundaries of the United States – including those held at Guantanamo and other detention facilities -- regardless of the role of the U.S. Government in the unlawful seizure and detention of the people imprisoned.
The case, Maqaleh v. Gates, is the first legal challenge of its kind made on behalf of a foreign detainee held in U.S. custody outside of the United States or Guantanamo. Finding in favor of Mr. Maqaleh, Federal Judge, the Honorable John D. Bates, noted that the Supreme Court's recent decision to hear the appeals of Guantanamo prisoners challenging the MCA, warranted a rejection of the Government's motion to dismiss Maqelah's case for lack of jurisdiction. While holding that the Government would be free to re-file its motion to dismiss should the Bush Administration win the upcoming MCA challenge in the Supreme Court, Judge Bates opined that " the Supreme Court could issue a broader ruling in favor of the detainees, one whose reasoning applies not only to Guantanamo, but to Bagram and other locations as well."
In response to the decision Stanford Law Professor and IJN Litigation Director, Barbara Olshansky stated that "Judge Bates' decision represents an acknowledgment that the Bush Administration has cut the heart out of our democracy by disregarding the Constitution, our military codes, and international law. His order is an implicit confirmation of what human rights field workers and investigative journalists have been speculating since the Supreme Court's Rasul v. Bush decision which upheld the Guantanamo detainees' right to challenge the legality of their detention in court--that the Administration has shifted its unlawful detention practices to Bagram and other, secret facilities around the world."
IJN Executive Director, Tina Monshipour Foster noted that "the worst cases of torture and abuse of detainees in U.S . custody have happened at Bagram. The U.S. Government's own documents have revealed that at least two detainees were tortured to death by interrogators at Bagram. While there have been numerous proposals to close the infamous legal black hole of Guantanamo Bay – which still holds approximately 350 of the nearly 800 detainees sent there from countries around the world -- Bagram and other facilities have been overlooked despite the fact that they all have been steadily expanding. There are now more than 650 prisoners at Bagram alone – and more than 18,000 detainees being held indefinitely without charge in US-run prisons around the world."