On January 7, 2010 at 9:30a.m, a three-judge panel (Judges Sentelle, Tatel, and Edwards) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in Maqaleh v. Gates (No. 09-5265), the first legal challenge in U.S. courts on behalf of prisoners detained at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
The case is brought by IJNetwork on behalf of two Yemenis and one Tunisian citizen, each seized outside of Afghanistan from third countries and held without charge or trial in U.S. custody for more than six years.
Evidence suggests that each man was shuttled through U.S.-run secret prisons (“black sites”) for torture and interrogation, prior to ultimately being transferred to Bagram—itself the site of well-documented human rights violations—where they continue to be subjected to indefinite detention under sole U.S. military custody. IJNetwork filed the first case, on behalf of petitioner Fadi al Maqaleh, in 2006.
Mr. al Maqaleh was 20 years old when he was first detained, but is now almost 27. During the entire 6-year period while he has been in U.S. custody, he has not been permitted to see his family, and has been denied any access to lawyers or a court of law. His family only learned that Mr. al Maqaleh was in U.S. custody after he had been imprisoned for many months, and their only contact with him since then has been through heavily redacted letters and a few brief telephone conversations. Because Mr. al Maqaleh is being held virtually incommunicado, his father authorized IJNetwork to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in U.S. court seeking Mr. al Maqaleh’s release. Though his case has now been pending for over three years, the government continues to refuse to allow Mr. al Maqaleh, or any other Bagram detainee, to communicate with his attorneys.
In April 2009, Judge John D. Bates ruled that Mr. al Maqaleh, and two other petitioners in the case, Amin al Bakri and Redha al Najar, have a Constitutional right to petition U.S. courts for a writ of habeas corpus. Judge Bates’s decision was based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Boumediene v. Bush, 128 S.Ct. 2229, which established that detainees held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo had a Constitutional right to file habeas corpus petitions in U.S. courts. But before any of the Bagram detainees could have his day in court, the Obama Administration appealed Judge Bates’ decision—arguing that none of the 600 detainees at Bagram have any rights under U.S. law. Though President Obama has vowed to close Guantanamo, the Department of Justice continues to defend the Bush Administration’s position that individuals held at other U.S.-run military facilities have no legal rights. As the organization representing the Bagram detainees, IJNetwork has called on the Obama Administration to end the practices of rendition, torture, and indefinite detention, and provide fundamental human rights to all individuals held in U.S. custody— including Bagram.