Afghan Pharmacist Hafizullah Shabaz Khail Released from Bagram
March 9, 2010
On Wednesday, March 3, Hafizullah Shabaz Khail was freed from the Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan and reunited with his family. The U.S. military had raided his home in September 2008 and taken him along with 13 others, including Mr. Khail’s three children and his brothers, into custody. The others were released shortly thereafter. Mr. Khail, however, was held at Bagram for a year and a half—accused of providing treatment as a pharmacist to sick members of the Taliban. His U.S. lawyers, at the law firm Dechert LLP, who had successfully obtained his release from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility nine months earlier, suspect that he was taken to Bagram because they never had the opportunity to take his case to court and fully clear his name. Mr. Khail was released from Guantanamo six months before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing the detainees at Guantanamo to challenge their detention.
In the summer of 2009, the U.S. military established new procedures for reviewing the cases of detainees held at Bagram. (These new procedures deny the detainees access to lawyers, but assign them personal legal representatives and the right to call witnesses who are “reasonably available.” To date, however, reliable reports indicate that in the majority of cases, the personal representative met only once with the detainee and usually only a week before the hearing. Furthermore, to date, only a few witnesses have been permitted to appear on behalf of a detainee.) Mr. Khail was given a Detainee Review Board hearing, under the new procedures, in February 2010, after which he was cleared for release.
The CHR undertook Mr. Khail’s case in 2006 after many months of trying to obtain background information about detainees held at Guantanamo. With considerable help from his U.S. lawyers, the committee was able to gather detailed information about his case and the circumstances of his arrests, which the committee and the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (for which the CHR serves as secretariat) found compelling. The CHR appealed several times directly to high-level U.S. government officials at the Department of Defense and the Department of State for Mr. Khail to be granted due process. In addition more than 125 inquiries about Mr. Khail’s case were written to U.S. government officials by individual members of the NAS, NAE, and IOM, as well as member academies of the international H.R. Network, urging his release from indefinite detention.
Mr. Khail is a 64-year-old pharmacist from Afghanistan’s Zormat district in the province of Paktia. He was arrested in March 2003 by local Afghan police and turned over to the U.S. military for bounty money. He spent four and a half years at the Guantanamo detention facility. According to a transcript of his Combatant Status Tribunal hearing, published in March 2006, Mr. Khail “was accused of being a member of the Taliban and participating in military operations against the U.S. coalition.” According to his U.S. attorneys, he was “a respected member of the community [in Zormat] and in times of trouble was asked to serve on committees of elders who promote civil peace and order.” In a press interview after his release from Guantanamo, then governor of eastern Paktia province Raz Mohammed Dilili told the Associated Press that he knew Mr. Khail well, he was well-respected by the people of his district, and had never had any connection to the Taliban. Mr. Dilili explained that, in the months following the fall of the Taliban, he had personally appointed Mr. Khail to the Shura (council of elders). As the leader of a 15-member commission of elders, Mr. Khail and the other members were investigating charges of robbery and corruption involving a powerful local security officer, Police Chief Abdullah Mujahed. Mr. Khail was arrested during a meeting with the other members of his commission shortly after tracing a robbery of $3,000 to Police Chief Mujahed. Mr. Khail’s lawyers report that there was some evidence that he was named as a Taliban sympathizer by a member of the robbery ring that he was about to expose.
In December 2007 Mr. Khail was one of several Afghan detainees released from Guantanamo and transferred to Afghan government custody. After his case was reviewed in an Afghan judicial process, he was granted amnesty by President Hamid Karzai and freed on April 29, 2008. Five months later he was taken into U.S. custody again, as described above. For more information on Mr. Khail's case, please see his case summary.