WASHINGTON — Detainees at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan cannot use US courts to challenge their imprisonment the way detainees in Guantanamo Bay have, a federal appeals court ruled unanimously yesterday in a victory for the Obama administration.
Three judges said the fact that Afghanistan is a war zone and that the United States in effect has sovereignty over Guantanamo Bay swing the balance against the detainees.
But unlike Guantanamo Bay, “it is undisputed that Bagram, indeed the entire nation of Afghanistan, remains a theater of war,’’ the judges said in turning aside requests of a Tunisian and two Yemeni prisoners. The United States is holding detainees at the military prison on Afghan territory through a cooperative arrangement with Afghanistan.
The American Civil Liberties Union expressed disappointment with the decision.
It “ratifies a dangerous principle: that the US 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 ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman.