WASHINGTON – A key appellate court on Friday concluded prisoners held at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot challenge their captivity through rights granted under the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that Yemeni native Fadi al-Maqaleh and two other men don’t enjoy the same habeas rights previously extended by the Supreme Court to Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Citing geographic and other differences between the air base in Afghanistan and the naval base in Cuba, the three-judge panel overturned a trial court’s conclusion that the Bagram detainees were constitutionally similar to those held in Guantanamo.
“Guantanamo Bay is a territory that, while technically not a part of the United States, is under the complete and total control of our government,” Judge David Sentelle wrote. At Bagram, he added, “the surrounding circumstances are hardly the same.”
The U.S. has controlled Guantanamo for more than a century, while Sentelle noted that at the sprawling Soviet-era Bagram facility “there is no indication of any intent to occupy the base with permanence.”
The appellate panel further noted that Bagram, unlike Guantanamo, is “exposed to the vagaries of war” because of its location in an active war zone.
The wartime setting, as well as potential complications in dealing with a sovereign Afghan government, undermined the detainees’ claims that they are protected by the Constitution.