Not Just Guantanamo
By JOANNE MARINER
Jan. 14, 2009
The problem of Guantanamo is being solved. According to press accounts, President-elect Barack Obama will issue an executive order on his first full day in office mandating the detention center’s closure.
Shutting down this most notorious of prisons will be a crucial symbolic step, signaling a rejection of the Bush administration’s lawless approach to fighting terrorism. The prison’s seven-year existence has been a long affront to the country’s constitutional values.
Yet it would be wrong to consider Guantanamo alone. The use of long-term detention without charge—the reason for Guantanamo’s notoriety—is not limited to Guantanamo. Hundreds of prisoners are currently being held at the U.S. air base in Bagram, Afghanistan, and some of these men have been in custody for years.
Last week, a federal district court in Washington held a hearing in a group of consolidated cases brought by several detainees at Bagram. What these men are seeking is the right to challenge the grounds for their detention via habeas corpus—the same right that the Supreme Court has recognized for detainees at Guantanamo. …