Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Rules for Afghan Prisoners

The administration is implementing a new review system for prisoners held in Afghanistan.

Under the new rules, each detainee will be assigned a U.S. military official, not a lawyer, to represent his interests and examine evidence against him. In proceedings before a board composed of military officers, detainees will have the right to call witnesses and present evidence when it is "reasonably available," the official said. The boards will determine whether detainees should be held by the United States, turned over to Afghan authorities or released. For those ordered held longer, the process will be repeated at six-month intervals.
I don't have a big problem with this change -- with one significant exception. Because of the nature of the Afghan War, we are almost certainly going to pick up some innocent people, or individuals who we don't need to continue holding for whatever reason. There has to be some process in place to determine who needs to be held, and who we can release.

The only portion of the new system that is a bad idea is giving detainees any sort of "rights," such as the aforementioned right to call witnesses. The U.S. should review each case and determine whether calling witnesses is warranted, or what evidence should be considered. It should not be up to prisoners in a war zone to make those sorts of decisions. In other words, the system as described is reasonable, but it should be top-down to serve U.S. interests, not bottom-up to protect detainees. 

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