First Afghan Trial Concluded for Four Bagram Detainees in Afghanistan

This trial marks the beginning of a confusing period in which two legal systems will be running in parallel at the Parwan detention center — an Afghan one and an American one. Under the American one, detainees, all of whom are detained by American soldiers usually working with Afghan forces, can be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Their cases are periodically reviewed by an administrative hearing board of military officers, first when they arrive in Parwan and then every six months to see if they should continue to be detained, released or referred for trial in the Afghan courts.

Under the Afghan system, detainees are tried and, if found guilty, they serve their time in an Afghan prison. New cells are being built at Parwan that will be entirely under Afghan control, and detainees who are sentenced could be imprisoned there. Previously, a small number of Parwan detainees were referred for trial and internment in the Afghan prison at Policharki, but the referrals were not part of a comprehensive transfer plan.

The American military made a great effort to showcase the bomb-making trial as a symbol of the transfer of authority, inviting Afghan and Western news media. However, the judges’ verdict seemed to depend in large part on crucial forensic work primarily from American technicians, and over all, Americans will continue to play a substantial role in decisions about the transfer of detainees. So far, Afghan and American officials have identified 110 cases for Afghan trials.

There are about 850 people now detained in Parwan; all but about 30 are
Afghans. Most have been held for less than two years, but about 100 have
been held for longer and about 20 have been held for more than four
years.

One potential problem that has yet to be confronted is that an Afghan court could acquit a detainee whom the American review board deems a continuing threat. Then whose law will prevail?

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