Detention of Taliban, Al Qaeda and Other Suspects Raises Legal Issues

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Friday, February 1, 2002
Bruce Zagaris
As the U.S. and Afghanistan Governments take custody of more individuals arrested during the conflict within Afghanistan, many legal issues have arisen about the propriety of their detention, the treatment of and condition of detainees, and the propriety of criminal prosecutions. On January 5, 2002, the U.S. Department of Defense reported that it had custody of 273 members of al Oaeda or of the deposed Taliban regime that sheltered them. The number of detainees increases daily as U.S. interrogators review the several thousand other prisoners the local Afghan have detained. On January 4, 2002, the media reported that nearly 3,500 former Taliban fighters were detained near Shibarghan in a prison built for 800, under conditions causing concern among international aid groups. Although U.S. investigators are interrogating them, Gen. Abdul Rashid, Afghanistan’s new deputy defense minister and an ethnic Uzbek warlord with a reputation for brutality is in charge of the jail. During last week of December 2001, the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has visited and registered prisoners, first raised concern about overcrowding and unsanitary conditions after a prisoner became sick and died in on of the cells. The Committee said dozens more have become ill with dysentery.