Annual Report: United States of America 2013

May 29, 2013

Annual Report: United States of America 2013

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In June, a US District Court judge dismissed the habeas corpus petition brought on behalf of Zia-ur-Rahman, an Afghan national who had been taken into US military custody in Afghanistan in December 2008 and held without charge or trial ever since. The judge granted the US administration's motion that the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the case.

On 9 September, under an agreement signed six months earlier, the Afghan authorities assumed control of detainee operations on the US airbase at Bagram. Although the Afghan authorities were reported to have taken custody of the approximately 3,000 Afghan nationals detained at Bagram as of 9 March, more than 600 detainees reported to have been taken to the base since that date apparently remained under US military jurisdiction, as did about 50 non-Afghan nationals (see Afghanistan entry).

In October, a US District Court judge dismissed the habeas corpus petitions of three non-Afghan nationals held in US custody at Bagram. According to the petitions, Amin al-Bakri was seized in 2002 in Thailand; Redha al-Najar was arrested in Pakistan in 2002; and Fadi al-Maqaleh's petition alleges that he was detained outside Afghanistan in 2003, but the US authorities asserted that he was in Afghanistan at the time. In May 2010, the US Court of Appeals had overturned a 2009 ruling by the District Court that the three detainees could file petitions to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. Lawyers for the detainees subsequently filed amended petitions in District Court, adding new information they claimed undermined the Court of Appeals' ruling. However, the District Court disagreed.

In November, a US District Court judge dismissed the habeas corpus petition of another detainee in US custody at Bagram. Amanatullah, a Pakistani national, had been held at the base for several years. He was one of two men taken into custody by UK forces in Iraq in February 2004, handed over to US custody, and transferred to Afghanistan. Both remained held without charge or trial in US custody in Bagram at the end of 2012.


The absence of accountability for crimes under international law committed under the administration of President George W. Bush in relation to the CIA's programme of secret detention was further entrenched.

On 30 August, the US Attorney General announced the closure of criminal investigations into the death of two individuals in US custody outside the USA. He stated that no one would face criminal charges in relation to the deaths, believed to have occurred in Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003. This followed the announcement in June 2011 that a “preliminary review” conducted into interrogations in the CIA programme was at an end and that, apart from in relation to the two deaths, further investigation was not warranted.

Use of lethal force

The USA's “targeted killing” of terrorism suspects, including in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, particularly through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, continued during the year. Available information, limited by secrecy, indicated that US policy permitted extrajudicial executions in violation of international human rights law under the USA's theory of a “global war” against al-Qa'ida and associated groups.

Excessive use of force

At least 42 people across 20 states died after being struck by police Tasers, bringing the total number of such deaths since 2001 to 540. Tasers have been listed as a cause or contributory factor in more than 60 deaths. Most of those who died after being struck with a Taser were not armed and did not appear to pose a serious threat when the Taser was deployed.

In May the American Heart Association published a report which presented the first scientific, peer-reviewed evidence concluding that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest and death. The study analyzed information including autopsy reports, medical records and police data from eight cases in which individuals had lost consciousness after being shocked with a Taser X26 weapon.