World Bulletin / News Desk
The United States handed control of the controversial giant Bagram jail and its 3,000 suspected Taliban inmates to Afghan authorities on Monday, amid concerns the transfer could leave prisoners vulnerable to further rights abuses.
Hundreds of Afghan soldiers watched as an Afghan flag was hoisted in front of the prison at the huge U.S.-run airfield north of Kabul, as part of a plan to withdraw foreign troops from combat operations in 2014.
In a move that has angered the Afghan government, the U.S. plans to keep at least one block at the prison, where any suspected Taliban fighters captured in future raids will be held before being handed over.
Afghanistan has long sought control of the sprawling prison which has been likened to Guantanamo in Cuba and Abu Graib in Iraq for its association with torture and long detention times.
Prisoners have often been held for years without trial, and activists say they will be vulnerable to more rights abuses once the handover is complete.
Afghan authorities will maintain the American policy of detention without trial at Bagram, and many fear the practice could be extended to the rest of the country heralding a new chapter of rights abuses by powerful tribes and families.
Afghan lawyers say Afghanistan's social system of powerful tribes and influential families could mean that inmates are exposed to abuse if individuals are imprisoned without trial and on the basis of little, if any, evidence.
"A wealthy figure or a person of authority, if offended for whatever reason, can arrest an innocent citizen over personal or family vendettas," the president of Afghanistan's Independent Bar Association, Rohullah Qarizada, told Reuters.
Afghan officials maintain that detention without trial is illegal under Afghan law.
President Hamid Karzai's spokesman, Aimal Faizi, declined to comment on the possibility of detention without trial happening anyway, simply saying: "We are against detainees not being processed by Afghan law."
But the Open Society Foundation, a U.S.-based pro-democracy group, said "there is nothing that prevents the Afghan government from using the transition procedure to not only intern post-handover, but to subject anyone it deems to meet the detention criteria to internment anywhere in the country".
One former inmate, who spent five years at Bagram before being released without being charged, said conditions behind bars worsened when he was handed over to Afghan custody.
"The Afghans are no better than the Americans," said Karim Shah, adding that they had not let him pray during that time, considered a grave insult in ultra-religious, Muslim Afghanistan.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) served as a safeguard while the prison was under U.S. control.
Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) is expected to monitor Bagram under Afghan control, though no official agreement has been reached with the government, according to an Open Society Foundation report last week urging the government to grant the monitor unrestricted access to the prison.
The U.S. military defended its decision to keep at least one block at the prison.
"That will leave us with sufficient residual capacity to continue to capture, process and then transfer detainees," Major Lori Hodge wrote in an e-mail to Reuters.
Since the agreement on the handover was signed in March a further 600 people have been jailed at Bagram. The U.S. has no timeframe on when they will be handed over, and how long they plan to keep future captives.
Countries including Slovakia and the Czech Republic are not prepared to join the call to impose sanctions on Russia over Ukraine.
Tehran says will share information about citizens who boarded flight with stolen passports
The French government rejects the opposition MPs' claims that executive authorities, especially the presidency, were informed of the wiretapping of former President Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog.
The speaker of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People said the body remained opposed to the secession initiative but saw the parliament’s move as a positive step.
Lawyer for former military dictator Musharraf, on trial for treason, ordered removed from court for 'misbehaving'
The women were taken after soldiers without insignia spotted a pro-Maidan tattoo on one of the women's hands at a checkpoint.
Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, now the Navy's top cyber warrior, was cautious during often terse exchanges at a Senate hearing on his confirmation
Kerry and Lavrov "exchanged opinions about concrete proposals by Russia and the United States to ensure civil peace and concord" in Ukraine, the ministry said
Comments were the latest salvo in a long-running and bitter dispute between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA over documents outlining the agency's handling of the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan on Tuesday lost a confidence vote in parliament and will be replaced temporarily by the defence minister, parliament's spokesman Omar Hmeidan said.
Bomb attacks have increased since last year, raising concern about further instability in the Western-allied kingdom
In recent weeks a string of leaders have compared Modi's rise to the emergence of fascism in Europe.
Pistorius is facing separate gun charges for the two incidents, part of the prosecution's attempts to paint him as a cocky, gun-obsessed hot-head who does not like to take responsibility for his actions
Tusk said the European Union would impose sanctions on Russia starting on Monday over its military intervention in Ukraine's Crimea region
A Ukrainian airline plane was turned back on its way from Kiev to Simferopol, the region's main city, and had to return to the Ukrainian capital.
The United States says both the air drills in Poland and its joint naval exercises in the Black Sea were planned before the crisis in Ukraine