Bagram Air Base
As the US withdraws and the Taliban advance across large stretches of Afghanistan, women are taking up weapons in local militias to defend their villages. In Ghor province, ethnic Hazara women posed for social-media photos wielding rifles and rocket-launchers, pledging to resist by arms a return to "the dark era of Taliban." With US and NATO forces evacuating Bagram Air Base, prelude to a full withdrawal by Sept. 11, the Taliban are rapidly seizing territory. Since launching a spring offensive, the Taliban have doubled their area of control, and now hold nearly 100 of Afghanistan's 407 districts. In retreat, the central government is calling upon civilians to form militias to fight back.
International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made a formal request (PDF) on Nov. 20 to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the US military and the CIA. The proposed investigation focuses on alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan by the US military in May 2003, in addition to crimes at secret CIA detention facilities in Poland, Romania and Lithuania since July 2002. The allegations are brought under articles 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute and include murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture and cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence, and using, conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years.
Germany's Federal Court of Justice on Oct. 6 ruled that relatives of the victims of a 2009 air-strike in Afghanistan are not entitled to compensation. The court held that international law does not award damages or compensation for violations of international humanitarian law. Additionally, there is no legal basis for damages under German law because the scope of public liability does not extend to military missions abroad. The lawsuit concerned an air-strike ordered by Brig. Gen. Georg Klein near Kunduz, on Sept. 4, 2009. The air-strike killed 91, including many civilians. Germany has paid $5,000 to relatives of each civilian that died in the attack, but the victims' relatives were seeking additional compensation.
A spokesperson for Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Jan. 9 said that the administration will be releasing 72 prisoners the United States considers dangerous militants from Bagram prison, stating that there was not enough evidence to continue to hold them. The government said that there was no evidence against 45 of the detainees and that there was insufficient evidence against the other 27 to bring them to trial. Karzai's spokesperson stated that the continued detention of the prisoners was an illegal violation of Afghan sovereignty, and that the government could not allow Afghan citizens to be held for months and years at a time without being subject to trial. A US State Department spokeswoman reportedly responded to the decision by stating that the 72 prisoners are dangerous criminals and that there is strong evidence linking them to terrorist activities and the killings of Afghan citizens and US troops.
The nonprofit human rights law firm Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) released a report on Sept. 5 detailing the conditions at Bagram Prison in Afghanistan, a facility that continues to detain non-Afghan prisoners of the US despite not being under US control since March. According to the JPP, many of these detainees are being held indefinitely without charges, trial or access to a lawyer. Many prisoners have testified to being captured and held in the prison without ever being told about the basis for their detainment.
London-based Public Interest Lawyers on May 29 accused the UK military of holding at least eight men without charge at the UK temporary holding facility in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. Their clients have allegedly been held for over eight months without charge and without access to lawyers in what could be a breach of international law. Applications for habeas corpus were issued on behalf of two of the men in April, and the military has ordered a hearing in July. UK Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond insisted that the holdings are in compliance with international law and that there are regular inspections by the International Committee of the Red Cross. He explained that standard military procedures, which required the detainees to be released to Afghan forces after 96 hours, were changed in November due to suspicions about the use of torture on prisoners by the Afghan forces. According to the Ministry of Defence, the detainees are being held in Camp Bastion until a safe path through the Afghan system could be assured.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian detained at Guantánamo since August 2002, had portions of his handwritten prison-camp memoir published in Slate on April 30. Slahi wrote the 466-page journal from 2005-2006, and it has just become unclassified, although many sections are redacted. Slahi mostly grew up in Germany and went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet-backed regime in 1990, where he apparently fell in with al-Qaeda. He repudiated al-Qaeda in 1992 and returned to Germany to study, later moving to Canada. In 2001 back in Mauritania, he was detained "for questioning" by police at US behest—and promptly renditioned to Jordan. There, he was tortured for months on suspicion of involvement in the 2000 "Millennium Plot"—on the specious grounds that a member of his Montreal mosque was caught with plot-related explosives. The Jordanians concluded he wasn't involved, but the US sent him to Bagram and then to Guantánamo. That's when the nightmare really began.
The US gave full control of Bagram Prison to Afghanistan on March 25, winding down the US military presence in the country. President Hamid Karzai sought to regain control of the detention center in efforts to reclaim sovereignty over the country, as the US prepares to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The US was concerned that turning over the prison would put the secure detention of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda members at risk. The official handing over of control to Afghan authorities took place after an agreement was reached during a phone call between US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Karzai on March 23. US Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan in an attempt to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.