The US legacy of Bagram prison
by Pam Bailey
The father of Hamidullah Khan, who was 14 when he was abducted and handed over to the U.S., relates his storyAbdul was just 20 years old when he drove his father to the medical clinic one day for an exam. He dropped his father off, then left to run a few errands, saying nonchalantly that he would be back by the time the tests were done. But..he never showed up at the clinic. It was as if he had disappeared into thin air. His family agonized over what had happened to the young man, who – as the oldest son -- had worked as a laborer to support his parents and siblings in the wake of his father’s disability. The family fell into debt as a result, and his brother fell ill. It was more than a year later when the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) informed them that Abdul was alive, but in prison, being held indefinitely, without formal charge or trial.
October 8, 2012
You're probably thinking the captor is Israel, and the victim is Palestinian, because this narrative sounds oh so familiar.
But actually, this incident occurred in Pakistan. And the jailer that kidnapped Abdul Halim Saifullah off the streets of Karachi, then imprisoned him without a word to anyone, access to a lawyer or trial, was the United States. Abdul disappeared in 2005, and it wasn’t until 2007 that his family was finally told where their son was being held – the infamous Bagram prison, the largest detention facility in the world and known as "Afghanistan's Guantanamo." In January of this year, Afghan investigators accused the U.S. Army of abusing detainees at Bagram, including torture.
Although the CodePink delegation is in Pakistan to publicize the disastrous effects of U.S. drone attacks in the region of Waziristan, many organizations and individuals who have suffered at the hands of Americans have sought an "audience" with us, hoping that we will take on their cause as well when we return home. One of those organizations is the "Justice Project Pakistan," modeled after and mentored by the UK’s Reprieve. JPP advocates for the most vulnerable of prisoners – primarily those facing the death penalty or who are detained beyond the rule of law in secret prisons. Included among the latter are 37 Pakistanis – one as young as 16, who was seized in circumstances similar to Abdul’s at the age of just 14. Although the U.S. handed Bagram over to the Afghan government in September, the transition did not include prisoners from other countries, such as Pakistan, of which there are 52. (A side note: It also did not include more than 600 Afghans who were detained after the agreement was signed in March; they all remain in U.S. custody.)
Sarah Belal, an Oxford-trained lawyer and director of JPP, interpreted for a group of men whose brothers and sons are being held in Bagram. According to the men, some of the prisoners had been visiting Afghanistan for work or education, but others were in their hometowns in Pakistan. Many Americans do not realize that for years, the United States has been running "search-and-seize" operations in Pakistan as well, detaining these nationals for years without formal charge or trial. The longest has been there since 2002.