The War on Due Process: Civilian Victims of the U.S. Arbitrary Detention Program in Afghanistan

  • Vasja Badalič
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Victims and Victimology book series (PSVV)


This chapter explores the factors that led to unlawful detentions of civilians in U.S. internment centers in Afghanistan. The first section of the chapter analyzes the factors that influenced the selection of targets for detention (e.g., too-broad criteria for determining who was detainable, reliance on weak evidence to justify detentions, mistakes in verifying the identity of detainees). The second section examines the lack of adequate procedural safeguards during detention (e.g., denial of the right to challenge the lawfulness of detention, denial of access to information about the reasons for detention, denial of access to a defense lawyer). The third section shows how both the vaguely defined grounds for detention and the inadequate procedural safeguards led to the arbitrary detention of hundreds of civilians.


U.S. military Afghanistan Arbitrary detention Grounds for detention Procedural safeguards Civilian victims 


  1. AI (Amnesty International). 2009. USA: Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Out of Court? The Right of Bagram Detainees to Judicial Review. London: Amnesty International Publications. Accessed on 26 April 2018.
  2. ———. 2015. USA Crimes and Impunity. London: Amnesty International Publications. Accessed on 26 April 2018.
  3. Awad v. Obama 646 F. Supp.2d 20 (D.D.C. 2009). Accessed on 7 May 2018.
  4. Bovarnick, Jeff A. 2010. Detainee Review Boards in Afghanistan: From Strategic Liability to Legitimacy. Charlottesville: Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School.Google Scholar
  5. Bowman, Tom, Steve Inskeep, and Renee Montagne. 2009. “U.S. Gen. Urges Release of Bagram’s Detainees.” National Public Radio, August 20. Accessed on 23 April 2018.
  6. CTITF (Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force). 2014. Basic Human Rights Reference Guide: Right to a Fair Trial and Due Process in the Context of Countering Terrorism. New York: CTITF Publication Series. Accessed on 3 July 2018.
  7. Debuf, Els, eds. 2009. “Expert Meeting on Procedural Safeguards for Security Detention in Non-international Armed Conflict.” International Review of Human Rights Law 91 (876): 859–881.
  8. Deeks, Ashley S. 2009. “Administrative Detention in Armed Conflict.” Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law 40 (33): 403–436.Google Scholar
  9. Dörmann, Knut. 2012. “Detention in Non-international Armed Conflicts.” In Non-international Armed Conflict in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Kenneth Watkin and Andrew J. Norris, 347–366. Newport: US Naval War College Press.Google Scholar
  10. Elsea, Jennifer K., and Michael John Garcia. 2011. Detainee Provisions in the National Defense Authorization Bills. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. Accessed on 24 April 2018.
  11. Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949. Accessed on 11 May 2018.
  12. Gopal, Anand. 2010. “America’s Secret Afghan Prisons.” The Nation, January 28. Accessed on 23 April 2018.
  13. Graff, Peter. 2010. “McChrystal Bans Night Raids Without Afghan Troops.” Reuters, March 5. Accessed on 28 August 2017.
  14. Graham-Harrison, Emma. 2014. “US Finally Closes Detention Facility at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.” The Guardian, December 11. Accessed on 24 April 2018.
  15. Hamlily v. Obama, 616 F. Supp. 2d 63 (D.C. 2009). Accessed on 2 May 2018.
  16. Henckaerts, Jean-Marie, and Louise Doswald-Beck. 2005. Customary International Humanitarian Law. Volume 1: Rules. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Horowitz, Jonathan. 2009. “Bagram Prison Threatens Success in Afghanistan.” The Huffington Post, Accessed on 23 April 2018.
  18. HRF (Human Rights First). 2008. Arbitrary Justice: Trials of Bagram and Guantánamo Detainees in Afghanistan. New York: Human Rights First. Accessed on 17 April 2018.
  19. ———. 2009a. Undue Process: An Examination of Detention and Trials of Bagram Detainees in April 2009. New York: Human Rights First. Accessed on 17 April 2018.
  20. ———. 2009b. Fixing Bagram: Strengthening Detention Reforms to Align with U.S. Strategic Priorities. New York: Human Rights First. Accessed on 2 May 2018.
  21. ———. 2011. Detained and Denied in Afghanistan: How to Make US Detention Comply with the Law. New York: Human Rights First. Accessed on 17 April 2018.
  22. HRW (Human Rights Watch). 2004. “Enduring Freedom”: Abuses by US Forces in Afghanistan. New York: Human Rights Watch. Accessed on 17 April 2018.
  23. Mattan v. Obama 618 F. Supp.2d 24 (D.D.C. 2009). Accessed on 6 May 2018.
  24. Oppel, Richard A. 2009. “U.S. Captain Hears Pleas for Afghan Detainee.” The New York Times, May 24. Accessed on 1 May 2018.
  25. OSF (Open Society Foundations), and TLO (The Liaison Office). 2011. The Cost of Kill/Capture: Impact of the Night Raid Surge on Afghan Civilians. Kabul: OSF & TLO. Accessed on 21 August 2017.
  26. Paust, Jordan J. 2003. “Judicial Power to Determine the Status and Rights of Persons Detained Without Trial.” Harvard International Law Journal 44 (2): 503–532.Google Scholar
  27. Pejic, Jelena. 2005. “Procedural Principles and Safeguards for Internment/Administrative Detention in Armed Conflict and Other Situations of Violence.” International Review of Human Rights Law 87 (858): 375–391.Google Scholar
  28. Porter, Gareth. 2011. “Ninety Percent of Petraeus’s Captured ‘Taliban’ Were Civilians.” IPS, June 12. Accessed on 17 April 2018.
  29. Priest, Dana. 2005. “CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons.” The Washington Post, November 2. Accessed on 26 April 2018.
  30. Rivera, Ray. 2011. “In an Afghan Village, Living in Fear of Both Sides.” The New York Times, April 23. Accessed on 10 May 2018.
  31. Sassòli, Marco. 2015. “Legal Framework for Detention by States in Non-international Armed Conflict.” Collegium 45: 51–65.Google Scholar
  32. Sassòli, Marco, and Laura M. Olson. 2008. “The Relationship Between International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law Where It Matters: Admissible Killing and Internment of Fighters in Non-international Armed Conflicts.” International Review of Human Rights Law 90 (871): 599–627.Google Scholar
  33. U.N. General Assembly. 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Accessed on 9 May 2018.
  34. ———. 1966. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 19 December 1966. Accessed on 8 May 2018.
  35. ———. 1988. Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment. Adopted by General Assembly Resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988. Accessed on 14 May 2018.
  36. U.N. Human Rights Committee. 1992. Gordon v. Jamaica, Communication No. 237/1987, UN Doc CCPR/C/46/D/237/1987. Accessed on 3 July 2018.
  37. Webber, Diane. 2012. “Preventive Detention in the Law of Armed Conflict: Throwing Away the Key?” Journal of National Security Law & Policy 6: 167–205.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vasja Badalič
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Criminology at the Faculty of LawLjubljanaSlovenia

Personalised recommendations