The “Black Jail”

One big news item from the weekend was the stories in the Post and the Times about a “black” detention site at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The stories fill in some details about what’s going on at the jail, which previous reporting had suggested is a separate, Special Operations-run interrogation facility that has been kept off-limits to the International Committee of the Red Cross. According to the Post, detainees there have claimed they were “beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement.” 

I asked Jonathan Horowitz, a human rights researcher at the Open Society Institute who was quoted in both stories, whether he thought the Times and the Post had upped the pressure on President Barack Obama to address detainee access issues. Yes and no: While “there’s a greater willingness to have dialogue on the story than there’s been in the past,” Horowitz says, he’s “yet to see whether that will lead to any tangible results.” Horowitz also said that the ICRC and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission should be given access to the site and that allegations of abuse should be investigated. It’s not surprising to hear such things from a human rights researcher, but it will be interesting to see if he gets what he wants.