Afghan Probe Supports UN Claims of Torture in Government Jails

An investigation ordered by Afghan President Hamid Karzai found evidence of torture and mistreatment in the country’s prisons, supporting the conclusions of a United Nations report last month that said abuse remained widespread.

Members of the Afghan commission told reporters in Kabul today that 48 percent of 284 detainees they interviewed said they had been tortured or ill-treated in facilities run by local authorities in the provinces of Kabul, Herat and Kandahar. Most were being held for alleged involvement in the 11-year Taliban insurgency.

The Afghan investigators said they had no information to support assertions made in the Jan. 20 report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan that some prisoners may have been detained at hidden installations run by the nation’s intelligence agency or had been raped.

“No secret prisons run by the National Directorate of Security or others are based in Afghanistan,” Abdul Qadir Adalatkhwah, who headed the government-appointed commission, said. “We did not find any evidence to support UN reports of rape cases.” The panel has submitted its suggestions to Karzai.

“The president is trying to show openness in his administration,” Waliullah Rahmani, executive director of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies, said in a phone interview. “Karzai wants to show the international community that he’s serious over implementing reforms.”

Still, Rahmani said the panel’s recommendations were likely to be “implemented verbally but not in action.”

Forced Confessions

The UN last month said that more than half of 635 conflict- related detainees it interviewed in 30 provinces had experienced ill-treatment and torture in the year to October 2012. The study said abuse was especially present in 34 facilities run by the Afghan National Police and the NDS. Local police forces and the Afghan army also hold detainees as they await trial. Of those interviewed, 105 were children.

Afghan officials inflicted “severe pain and suffering on detainees during interrogations aimed mainly at obtaining a confession or information,” the UN said in its report. Prisoners had been left hanging by their wrists for long periods, and beaten with cables, pipes, hoses or wooden sticks, including on the soles of the feet, it said. Others had been threatened with execution or sexual violence.

As a result, the international coalition fighting the Taliban had stopped transferring detainees to some locations, the UN said.

Recognizing that Karzai’s government had taken some steps to address abusive practices, Jan Kubis, the UN mission’s head, said in the report that “more needs to be done to end and prevent torture.”

No Prosecution

While Afghan authorities had probed claims of abuse, the UN found no evidence of any prosecution of those responsible for torture or for failing to stop it. The country needed a more robust investigation process and a court system that refuses to accept confessions gained through torture, the UN said.

The NDS provided access to all its jails throughout Afghanistan except buildings run by the agency’s Counter Terrorism Department 124 based in Kabul, according to the UN. Monitors were allowed into all police lock-ups, with access cleared by the Interior Ministry, it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eltaf Najafizada in Kabul at enajafizada1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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