Karzai Orders Transfer of U.S. Prison to Afghan Control

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday ordered the transfer of the U.S. military prison at Bagram to Afghan control within a month, citing reports of human rights violations there.

Karzai issued the order after receiving a report detailing "many cases of violations of Afghan Constitution and other applicable laws of the country, the relevant international conventions and human rights," his office said.

"President Hamid Karzai has assigned a commission to transfer the Bagram Prison fully to Afghan government control within a month's time effective today," the statement said.

Karzai acted after a briefing by Gul Rahman Qazi, the chairman of the Constitutional Oversight Commission, on a report on the Bagram detention facility -- sometimes called the "Afghan Guantanamo", after the U.S. military detention facility in Cuba.

The president "re-assigned the same commission initially tasked on January 9, 2010 to complete the transfer of the prison from the Americans within one year from January 2011 until January 2012.

"In consistence with the previous agreement on the transfer of the prison and all prisoners in foreign hands, the commission was instructed to complete the full takeover process within a month's time starting today so that any more breach of the Afghan sovereignty can be avoided," the statement said.

The move comes amid signs of tensions between Karzai and his U.S. backers over plans by Taliban insurgents to open a political office in Qatar as a precursor to possible peace talks.

Karzai is reportedly concerned that he has been sidelined by the move -- announced this week -- and insists that any negotiations should be led by his government.

The detention facility was built within the sprawling U.S. military base at Bagram, north of the Afghan capital Kabul after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 and soon gained a reputation for extra-judicial brutality.

The Afghan Defense Ministry announced in January 2010 that an agreement had been signed with NATO's International Security Assistance Force on a handover of the prison to Afghan control.

Later that month, the US said the prison would be transferred to Afghan command in one year.

The transfer would include a new prison, called the Detention Facility in Parwan, that had capacity for more than 1,000 inmates and replaced the old 650-detainee facility at Bagram.

Human rights campaigners have regularly criticized the prison, saying it fails to comply with international norms as some inmates are victims of arbitrary detention without trial or knowledge of the charges against them.

Bagram prison gained a vicious reputation from December 2002, when two inmates died one week apart.

They were officially said to have died of natural causes, but an enquiry later revealed that they had been beaten, deprived of sleep and kept constantly chained.

The U.S. led an invasion of Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, ousting the hardline Islamist Taliban government which had sheltered al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

About 130,000 U.S.-led troops are still in the country, now fighting a Taliban-led insurgency across Afghanistan.

The coalition combat troops are set to leave the country by the end of 2014, handing control for security to Afghan forces.

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