Three prisoners held by American military forces at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan cannot use the U.S. civilian court system to challenge their detention, a U.S. Appeal Court ruled Friday in Washington, D.C.
The three detainees — a Tunisian and two Yemenis — had sought to use the court system to challenge their indefinite imprisonment in a military jail, the same right that detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, won through the U.S. Supreme Court.
The three-judge appeal panel ruled that the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts does not extend to foreigners held in Afghanistan. The judges said that Afghanistan is a war zone, while Guantanamo Bay has been under U.S. control for more than 100 years.
Judge David Sentelle wrote that the Bagram prisoners "seem to be arguing that the fact of United States control of Bagram under the lease of the military base is sufficient.... We reject this extreme understanding."
The Tunisian man said he was captured in Pakistan in 2002. One of the Yemeni detainees said he was captured in Thailand in 2002, held elsewhere, and then moved to Bagram. The other Yemeni said he was captured outside of Afghanistan, but has not specified where.
The U.S. is holding the detainees at Bagram in co-operation with the Afghan government.
The Appeal Court's decision disappointed the American Civil Liberties Union.
The decision "ratifies a dangerous principle: that the U.S. government has unchecked power to capture people anywhere in the world, unilaterally declare them enemy combatants, and subject them to indefinite military detention with no judicial review," said Melissa Goodman, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project.