The U.S. government formally values the human right to be free from indefinite detention without charge, except in certain cases such as when the practice is useful for securing its own interests in Afghanistan and Iraq, writes Glenn Greenwald.
An article published Monday in The Washington Post stated that “Washington wants the Afghan government to continue holding certain prisoners it views as dangerous, even if there is not enough evidence to try them.”
A spokesman for Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai told reporters Monday “that detention without trial is illegal in Afghanistan and that more than 50 Afghans are still being held in U.S. custody at Bagram, 35 miles northeast of Kabul, even though they have been ordered released by Afghan courts.”
Though such treatment of Afghans is obviously an engine for anti-American sentiment, Washington persists with the policy. Afghan officials have attempted to persuade the Obama administration to abandon the stance with regards to detention and its assassination program. As Greenwald quotes them as saying:
“There is a constitutional problem here. A person is innocent unless proven guilty,” and: “if you go off to kill or capture them, how do you prove that they are really guilty in terms of legal process?”, and: “[The Americans] should respect our law, our constitution and our legal codes. We have a commitment to arrest these people on our own.”
Similar disputes play out in Iraq. In relation to Ali Musa Daqduq, an agent of Hezbollah accused of killing five U.S. troops in 2007, The New York Times reported:
“In a phone call on Tuesday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, that the United States believed that Mr. Daqduq should be held accountable for his actions and that Iraq should explore all legal options toward this end, an American official said. . . .
“But Mr. Maliki told Mr. Biden that Iraq had run out of legal options to hold Mr. Daqduq, who this year had been ordered released by an Iraqi court. . . . Iraqi officials have said that they thought delaying Mr. Daqduq’s release until after the American presidential election would mollify the Obama administration. American officials have repeatedly insisted that they did not want him released at all . . . .
“After Mr. Daqduq was transferred to Iraqi custody, an Iraqi court ruled that there was not enough evidence to hold him.”
It is ironic indeed that the US is demanding that the practice of due-process-free indefinite detention be continued in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries it invaded and then occupied while claiming it wanted to bring freedom and democracy there. But on one level, this is the only outcome that makes sense, as a denial of basic due process is now a core, defining US policy in general.
… [T]here’s something particularly revealing about the US demanding that the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq abandon any commitment they are attempting to develop (albeit quite selectively) to basic due process rights and instead imprison anyone the US wants imprisoned - even in the absence of evidence of their guilt and even in the face of judicial findings that their detention is without evidence and unlawful. As it turns out after all, the US is indeed spreading its core values to those two nations, though those values have nothing to do with freedom and democracy except to the extent that they are the primary impediments to achieving it.