Afghans poised to 'take over' US prison
10 September, 2012
KABUL: The United States is due to hand over formal control of a controversial prison housing Taliban fighters to the Afghan government on Monday, in a move hailed by Kabul as a victory for sovereignty.
The transfer was set in motion by a memorandum of understanding signed on March 9 that paved the way for a six-month handover.
On Saturday, President Hamid Karzai called it "an important step towards the recognition of Afghan national sovereignty" in talks with US commander General John Allen and US ambassador James Cunningham. However, Karzai's spokesman, Aimal Faizi admitted there were some disagreements with the Americans.
"They had their views and we had our position and our expectations based on the MoU," he said. Major questions also hang over the immediate and long-term fate of the more than 3,000 inmates, including around 50 foreigners not covered by the agreement and another 600 who were arrested after the deal was concluded. 50 foreigners, mostly from Pakistan, and held for years are not covered by the agreement, which advocacy group the Open Society Foundations says exposes them to the risk of indefinite detention.
As a result, the United States is likely to continue to control at least a portion of the jail. The Open Society has also raised concerns that Afghan detention without judicial review could be subject to abuse. In March, Afghanistan's human rights commission detailed torture in prisons run by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence service and the police. NDS spokesman said Shafiqullah Taheri rejected the claims, saying that rights activists regularly visit detention centres. Abdul Waheed Wafa, analyst and director of the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University, said Monday's handover was symbolic.
"The president wants to show Afghans and the world that Afghanistan is able to take full security responsibility, but in fact, it is not true. Everybody knows the Afghan government doesn't have the capacity to run Bagram prison," he said.