Confinement Conditions at a U.S. Screening Facility on Bagram Air Base

This Open Society Foundations report provides the first detailed account of mistreatment at a classified U.S. screening facility on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan that was physically distinct from the Bagram Theater Internment Facility or the Detention Facility in Parwan. Detainees state that they were held in excessively cold isolation cells; supplied inappropriate or inadequate food, bedding, and blanketing; denied exposure to natural light; unable to carry out their religious duties; restricted from exercise; and kept from meeting with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The information in this report is based on interviews conducted in July 2010 with over 20 former U.S. detainees, 18 of whom stated they were detained at Tor Jail. Half of those 18 stated that they passed through the facility in 2009 or 2010.

According to the report:

In many cases the former detainees stated that after being held for a few days in isolation cells near their initial point of capture they were placed on a plane or helicopter and brought to a second detention facility. Most interviewees said that after being held for differing time spans at this second facility they were then driven a short distance to the BTIF, indicating that their previous location was located on Bagram Air Base.
(…)
The interviewees consistently described being held in a location where they were interrogated and held in small single person cells that prohibited verbal and visual communication with other detainees. This strongly suggests that the detainees were “screened” and subjected to interrogation methods described in Appendix M of the U.S. Army’s Human Intelligence Collector Operations Field Manual 2-22.3,

On the secrecy of the site:

Our research found that, although the specific details about the facility have remained largely unknown to the media and international human rights groups, the facility is well-known and discussed among Afghans. As such, much of the secrecy surrounding operational aspects of the screening facility on Bagram Air Base is uncontainable due to the fact that Afghan detainees who pass through the facility routinely share their experiences “downstream” at DFIP with other detainees, and with their friends and relatives once released. In other words, the cat is out of the bag, while the insistence on secrecy is doing considerable harm to the reputation of the United States.

Impact on the Detainee Review Boards in Bagram:

The importance of ensuring that the United States is respecting this prohibition is not only a matter of legal deference. The Detainee Review Boards taking place at the DFIP prohibit the submission of information and evidence obtained through the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. If detainees are being held in conditions at an interrogation facility that rises to this level of abuse, the information obtained from those detainees should be rejected by the Detainee Review Boards.

Based on the interviews conducted by the researchers for this report, the totality of the conditions of confinement at the facility raise serious concerns about a disconnect between detainee treatment at this facility and the United States’ stated commitment to the humane treatment of detainees, be it under U.S. or international law.

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