Duncan Gardham and Zubair Babakarkhail / The Telegraph – 2012-01-06 02:10:28
KABUL (January 5, 2012) — Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, has made a bid to wrest back control of the peace process with the Taliban by demanding that the US hand over control of their detention facility at Bagram within a month. Mr Karzai also said he wanted all Afghan citizens held by the coalition troops across the country passed into Afghan hands.
This week the US made clear it was prepared to release senior members of the Taliban held at its jail in Guantanamo Bay as part of a peace process, which has involved the Taliban announcing it was opening an office in the Gulf state of Qatar.
Despite officially welcoming the move, senior official in Mr Karzai’s administration had voiced reservations about the process because they were not initially involved.
“Any peace process without Afghanistan’s government in the lead is meaningless,” one official told the AFP news agency. “The US officials that we are in contact with say that once the office is set up and talks gets underway the lead will be given to Afghanistan’s government. Without that, no talks could succeed but so far, the Afghan government has not been involved.”
The Taliban have said their counterpart in any peace talks would be the US and its Western allies and have excluded Mr Karzai’s administration, which includes members of its old enemy, the Northern Alliance.
Now Mr Karzai has made a bid to take control of as many Taliban prisoners as possible.
A presidential statement said that keeping Afghan citizens imprisoned without trial violates the country’s constitution, as well as international human rights conventions.
A statement from Karzai’s office said he issued instructions to a commission of top government and judicial officials, “to complete their job regarding the handing over of the prison and other prisoners who are held by foreign forces.”
“The work should be completed within a month,” it said.
Afghan officials signed an agreement to allow the US military to begin the process of transferring responsibility for the prison to Afghan control in January 2010. But Britain and other NATO allies stopped transferring detainees to a number of Afghan jails after allegations of torture and abuse were uncovered in a United Nations report last September.
The Americans have used the jail at the Bagram airbase north of Kabul to hold high-value detainees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, beyond the reach of both US and Afghan law.
They do not confirm the name of prisoners and most are not allowed to see lawyers leading the prison to be dubbed by human rights lawyers the â€œnew Guantanamoâ€.
A federal appeals court ruled two years ago that prisoners being held without trial at Bagram by the US military had no right to challenge their imprisonment in American civilian courts because the prison was in a war zone.
But last month a British court granted a petition of habeas corpus on a Pakistani man who was captured by the British in Iraq and handed to the Americans who transferred him to Bagram.
The US State Department said on Wednesday that â€œno decisions have been made with regard to any releases” from Guantanamo Bay but reports suggest names being discussed are Muhammad Fazl, the former Taliban deputy defence minister; two former provincial governors, Khairullah Khairkhwa of Herat and Noorullah Nori of Balkh; Abdul Haq Wasiq, a former top Taliban intelligence official; and one of the Talibanâ€™s top financiers, Muhammad Nabi.
Wahid Mujhda, an Afghan political analyst, said: â€œWhat has tipped this issue is the negotiations with the Taliban. The Afghan government is not happy with the Americans. It believes that negotiations should be done by Afghans who will take a strong approach with the Taliban. The Afghan government wants to show it still has power and legal independence.â€
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