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Human Rights Attorneys Submit Letter to Dignitaries from 67 Countries at Paris Conference on Afghanistan

CONTACT: press@ccrjustice.org

Paris, New York, June 12, 2008 – The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) today submitted a letter on the plight of former Guantánamo and Bagram prisoners in Afghanistan to foreign government dignitaries attending an international conference on Afghanistan. Many of these prisoners face continuing detention and flawed criminal prosecutions, an issue human rights attorneys say is in need of international attention. The conference brings together delegations from 67 countries and is co-chaired by Afghanistan, the United Nations and France.

The letter explains that for the past year, every Afghan “released” from Guantánamo and returned to Afghanistan has been sent to a U.S.-built detention facility within Pul-e-charkhi prison outside of Kabul, where they have been detained with other Afghan prisoners transferred from the U.S. Air Base at Bagram. The U.S. spent $20 million in constructing the Afghan National Detention Facility (ANDF), which currently holds more than 200 men formerly imprisoned at Guantánamo and Bagram, some of whom have been held at the ANDF for over a year without charge or trial.

Prisoners at the ANDF had in some cases already been detained and tortured by the United States for more than six years without charge or any fair process by which to challenge their detention. Some had in fact been “cleared” by the U.S. military and determined not to pose a threat to the United States or its allies, yet were still sent to the ANDF for continued detention and criminal prosecution. One prisoner formerly detained at Guantánamo said that when he boarded a plane departing Cuba, he was told only that he was going home. He knew nothing of his continuing detention at the ANDF until he arrived there.

In recent months, ANDF prisoners have gone on hunger strike three times to protest their political prosecutions and sham trials. The most recent strike lasted ten days, during which prisoners had literally sewn their mouths shut in protest.

The letter states that those prisoners who have faced criminal prosecution in Afghan courts have gone through a patently unfair process: prosecutions have been based largely, if not solely, on flawed and inadequate evidence provided to the prosecution by the U.S. military, possibly including evidence obtained under torture; prisoners have been prevented from questioning and confronting the evidence against them; and at last count, there were six defense lawyers representing over 160 prisoners, making access to effective legal assistance a serious concern. Not surprisingly, the majority of trials that have gone forward to date have resulted in convictions, with sentences as high as 20 years.

CCR calls on the government of Afghanistan to ensure ANDF prisoners receive the due process and fair trial guarantees enshrined in the Afghan constitution and in international treaties to which Afghanistan is a state party. For its part, the U.S. government has a duty to close Guantánamo responsibly. It should refrain from pressuring other countries to detain indefinitely or prosecute transferred prisoners as a condition of repatriation, as well as from facilitating convictions in foreign courts with evidence that would not be admissible in U.S. courts, as it appears to be doing in Afghanistan.

The full text of the letter is available below.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.