The Pentagon says it has begun implementing a program that will give
hundreds of detainees at a U.S.-run prison at the Bagram Air Base in
Afghanistan the right to challenge their custody.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday the new policy will allow roughly 600 detainees to appear before a panel periodically to contest their detention.
Under the new rules, a U.S. military official would be assigned to work with each of the Bagram prisoners. Although the officials would not be lawyers, they would be able to gather evidence and witnesses to help the detainees dispute their detention.
The U.S. military has been holding the detainees at Bagram north of Kabul as "enemy combatants." Some of them have been there for up to six years.
Unlike terrorism suspects at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, those in Afghanistan have had no access to lawyers to challenge their detentions or hear allegations against them.
The Pentagon spokesman says each detainee will now have the right to be heard within 60 days of his arrival at the center.
Human rights advocates say Bagram inmates have been protesting their detention since July by refusing privileges such as recreation time, family visits and meetings with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Obama administration is reviewing detention practices it inherited from the administration of former President George W. Bush. Human rights groups have criticized those policies, saying they allow for arbitrary and indefinite detention.