Family Values

After six years of detention without charge or trial, the families of five lucky Afghan detainees were allowed to see their loved ones. The other 594 are still waiting:

Five detainees in an American military prison in Afghanistan met with their families Tuesday in the first face-to-face visits allowed since the U.S. set up the detention center six years ago, officials said.

The five families met for an hour with the prisoners inside the heavily fortified Bagram Air Base, some 30 miles north of Kabul, said the International Committee for the Red Cross, which helped broker the agreement with the U.S. to allow the visits.

“This is indeed a crucial day for many families who have not seen their relatives in a long period of time,” said Greg Muller, a Red Cross delegate in Kabul.

U.S. military spokesman Capt. Scott Miller said the U.S. will now allow routine family visits at least once a week and possibly more frequently. However it was not clear whether the U.S. has agreed to allow all of the some 600 prisoners in Bagram family visits and whether they will permit more than five visits a week.
The decision to allow the visits followed years of discussions between American officers and the Red Cross, which says face-to-face visits between prisoners and relatives are a guaranteed right under international humanitarian law.

“We understand the positive impact these types of programs can have on the mission here in Afghanistan, particularly in terms of detainee behavior,” said Brig. Gen. James McConville, a senior U.S. military official at Bagram.

So why did it take six years to arrange? And why haven’t all 600 of the detainees at Bagram been given what’s rightfully theirs under international law?

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