Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

The other Guantanamo


U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered the Guantanamo military prison closed within the year, but what about the detention centre in Bagram, the U.S. military base in Afghanistan, which has an equally murky legal status ?

An estimated 600 detainees are held there, without any charge and many for over six years, rights activists say. That makes it more than twice the number held in Guantanamo, and according to military personnel who know both facilities, it is much more spartan and with lesser privileges as this report in the New York Times says.

Few detainees have had access to lawyers, and there was no question ever of allowing journalists or human rights advocates into the facility. I lived on the military base for four weeks as part of a group of journalists covering the war in 2002 and we had no clue where the prison was located, and we would keep guessing which one of the cavernous Soviet-built aircraft hangars the detainees were kept in.

Since then, the New York Times says, the population at the Bagram prison has expanded substantially, especially after the Bush administration largely halted the movement of prisoners to the Cuban facility in September 2004, making the Afghan centre the preferred alternative.