Former Bagram detainees complain of abuse - report
LONDON (Reuters) - Former inmates of the main U.S. military base at Bagram in Afghanistan say they were abused and neglected while being held there, the BBC reported Wednesday.
The BBC said it had interviewed 27 former inmates who were held at the U.S. air base between 2002 and 2008 under suspicion of belonging to or helping the Taliban or al Qaeda.
The former inmates said they were beaten, deprived of sleep, hung from the ceiling and threatened with dogs at the air base outside Kabul.
Allegations of ill-treatment appear repeatedly in the interviews, including the use of stress positions, excessive heat or cold, being forced to undress in front of female soldiers and, in four cases, being threatened with death at gunpoint, the BBC, a publicly funded broadcaster, said.
It said the former inmates had not been given access to legal representation, unlike detainees at the U.S. detention camp of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
All were ultimately released without charge.
The 27 were questioned separately around Afghanistan over a two-month period and were asked the same questions.
Two said they had been treated well, the BBC said.
The Pentagon denied the charges to the BBC, saying all inmates in the facility are treated humanely.
Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wright, a spokesman for the US Secretary of Defence, told the broadcaster that conditions at Bagram "meet international standards for care and custody."
"Department of Defence policy is and always has been to treat detainees humanely," he said in a statement. "There have been well documented instances where that policy was not followed, and service members have been held accountable for their actions in those cases."
Civil rights group Amnesty International criticised the United States for the lack of access to legal representation.
"So far, it is disappointing that they haven't brought greater legal clarity, transparency and accountability to these detentions at Bagram," said Rob Freer, a U.S. researcher.
U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay within a year in one of his first acts of office, but has yet to decide what to do about Bagram.
Guantanamo Bay, which still holds about 245 people, has been widely viewed as a stain on the U.S. human rights record.
The BBC's investigation echoes the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where inmates were stripped, put in stress positions, piled up naked and abused.
More than 600 prisoners are held at Bagram's makeshift prison, and a $60 million (36 million pound) prison complex is planned.
A task force is due to report back later this year on the U.S. government's overall detainee policy.
(Editing by Kate Kelland)
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