Abuse Allegations At U.S. Base In Afghanistan

Numerous former detainees at the U.S. military facility at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, held without charge during the period of 2002-2008, claim that they were beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened with dogs and firearms, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported Wednesday.

In its investigation, broadcast and also published on the BBC News Web site, 27 former inmates of Bagram were interviewed over a period of two months. The men had been accused of belonging to or helping either al Qaeda or the Taliban, but were never charged or tried, and all were eventually released — many with an apology.

Though interviewed separately, specific allegations of ill-treatment recur: physical abuse; sleep deprivation or maintaining stress positions for many hours, even days; undergoing excessive heat/cold or unbearably loud noise; being threatened with death at gunpoint, or with dogs; and being forced to remove their clothes in front of female soldiers.

(BBC News)
(Left: This man, a former detainee at Bagram, told the BBC a pistol had been put to his ear: "They said I had to speak or be shot.")

"They did things that you would not do against animals, let alone to humans," said one former inmate known as Dr. Khandan.

Just two of the detainees interviewed said they had been treated well.

BBC News correspondent Ian Pannell, reporting from Kabul, said the Pentagon insists that conditions at Bagram "meet international standards for care and custody," and that U.S. policy is to treat detainees humanely.

However, Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Wright also said to the BBC, "There have been well-documented instances where that policy was not followed, and service members have been held accountable for their actions in those cases."

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has banned the use of torture and ordered a review of U.S. policy on detainees. But unlike prisoners at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, those held in Bagram — some of whom have been renditioned from other countries — have no access to lawyers and cannot legally challenge their detention.

The International Justice Network, which calls Bagram "a legal black hole," is seeking to have inmates there granted the same legal rights as those currently held at Guantanamo Bay. But the Obama administration is trying to block the move, asserting its needs to maintain the detention facility at Bagram in an active combat zone.

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.