(CN) – Civilian courts lack authority to hear the cases of prisoners at the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the D.C. Circuit ruled. Three prisoners there had asked the courts to be freed, claiming the United States did not have the right to detain them in Afghanistan.
The three-judge panel ruled unanimously that the reach of courts in the United States does not extend to prisoners in the Bagram facility.
The three prisoners are being held as “unlawful enemy combatants” at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility on the Bagram Airfield Military Base in Afghanistan. It is the largest military facility in Afghanistan occupied by the United States.
The three filed separate lawsuits, claiming the United States had no right to lock them up. The government moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.
After President Obama took office in 2009, the court asked the government to express “any change in its position on the jurisdictional question.” The answer came back that the administration “adheres to its previously articulated position.”
Judge David Sentelle said the district court should have tossed the lawsuit.
The ruling also made note that the United States is holding the prisoners through an agreement with Afghanistan.
“The United States holds the detainees pursuant to a cooperative arrangement with Afghanistan on territory as to which Afghanistan is sovereign,” Sentelle wrote. “While we cannot say that extending our constitutional protections to the detainees would be in any way disruptive of that relationship, neither can we say with certainy what the reaction of the Afghan government would be.”