AP offers details about prolonged confinement about detainees at classified detention sites in Afghanistan

The Associated Press reported yesterday on the existence of “classified detention sites” being run by the Joint Special Operations Command in Afghanistan, where detainees are held for “weeks” in secret for the purposes of interrogation. Daphne Eviatar, a senior associate at Human Rights First, recently interviewed several former detainees who had been held at these facilities. Eviatar said her monitoring group does not believe the JSOC facility is using the full range of Bush-era interrogation techniques, but she said there’s “a disturbing pattern of using fear and humiliation to soften up the suspects before interrogation”. Detainees are said to be “forced to strip naked, and kept in solitary confinement in windowless, often cold cells with lights on 24 hours a day.”

Despite the sensational headline this is essentially old news; the government has never never denied the existence of these temporary holding facilities where they hold detainees for up to 14 days before releasing them or transferring them to the Parwan Detention facility. And the treatment of the detainees is in accordance with the Army Field Manual, including its notorious ‘Appendix M’.

The ICRC has earlier said that since August 2009 they are being notified – as a matter of policy – of detained people in Afghanistan by the US authorities within 14 days of their arrest. The UN has commented upon this practice, saying that there is ‘no legal justification for this two-week period of secret detention.’ Under international law the US can only hold persons in unacknowledged detention for the purposes of interrogation for one week.

According to article 70 of the Third Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are to be documented, and their whereabouts and health conditions made available to family members and to the country of origin of the prisoner within one week. Article 106 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (governing the treatment of civilians) establishes virtually identical procedures for the documentation and disclosure of information concerning civilian detainees.

The AP article now suggests that detainees might be held in these temporary detention sites for a period of up to 9 weeks. It is unclear at what time these detainees have access to the ICRC.

After the first two weeks, the first extension is for three weeks, for reasons including “producing good tactical intel” to “too sick to move,” according to a U.S. official familiar with the procedure. The next possible extension is for an additional month, adding up to a total of roughly nine weeks in temporary detention before battlefield interrogators have to appeal to the executive, either the defense secretary or the president himself, for another extension. The military has never pushed for that for any detainee, according to a
former senior intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity
to discuss classified matters.