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NATO Suspends Transfers To Some Afghan Prisons

07.09.2011 11:07


NATO-led forces in Afghanistan have stopped sending detainees to several Afghan prisons amid allegations that torture is a common practice by Afghan authorities.

Human rights researchers have been documenting and reporting the allegations of torture in Afghanistan for years. But the latest accusations are said to come in an official report by the UN mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA.

The BBC said the report, due to be released in the coming days, describes how prisoners have been abused at numerous detention facilities run by Afghanistan's intelligence service and by Afghan police.

General Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, said the alliance stopped prisoner transfers in the south about two months ago when the allegations of widespread torture came to light: He said other facilities were added to the list in recent days.

Jacobson stressed that only some prisoner transfers were being halted by NATO.

"We have stopped the transfer of detainees to certain installations, as a precautionary measure," he said. "We are awaiting and we are aware that a UN report will come out and we will look into that report. We have not stopped the overall transfer of detainees, but to certain installations only."

'Systematic Torture'

But Sam Zia-Zarifi, director of the Asia-Pacific Program for Amnesty International, told RFE/RL on September 7 that NATO's decision confirms what human rights researchers have been telling the alliance for years.

"The Afghan authorities, and in particular the National Directorate of Security -- the intelligence apparatus -- have been engaging in torture of detainees systematically," he said.

"This is something that has been brought to NATO's attention for a few years now, and I think finally, this year, they realized that the conditions were getting so bad that it would implicate NATO forces themselves directly.

"I think it was the right decision but it does point out a significant problem in that, having known of this problem, they allowed it to continue to the point that now they can't even hand over prisoners to Afghan authorities."

In Brussels, NATO officials told RFE/RL on September 7 that they are taking what they consider "appropriate caution" until the alliance can verify the findings in the pending UNAMA report.

NATO 'Not Prepared' For Large Numbers Of Detainees

Correspondents who have seen an advance copy of the report say it specifies detention facilities run by the Afghan National Department of Security (NDS) in Herat, Khost, Lagman, Kapisa, and Takhar as well as its counter-terrorism prison, known as Department 124.

They say NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has also suspended the transfer of detainees to two prisons run by local Afghan police in Kunduz and Tarin Kowt.

Amnesty International's Zia Zarifi has been documenting torture cases at Afghan facilities for years -- including beatings with rubber hoses, threats of sexual abuse and, in some cases, electrical shocks.

"Amnesty International's own information suggests that the problem of torture is essentially endemic," he said.

"There is actually no part of Afghanistan where we did not document ongoing problems with security forces.

And in some cases, it's not really just security forces. It's warlords and local militias who are ostensibly allied with the government who are running their own detention facilities.

"But the National Directorate of Security has a poor record anywhere that we've looked. In particular, Amnesty's research has highlighted some of the major population centers.

"In the south, of course, we've had ongoing issues that we've heard from Kandahar, in the southeast in Jalalabad, and unfortunately even from Mazar-i Shariff in the north."

Zia-Zarifi maintains that the halt of transfers will directly affect the way NATO carries out its fight against militants in Afghanistan, as NATO forces, with the exception of the Americans, "are not really prepared to handle large numbers of detainees."

Remedial Actions

He also believes the media attention now being focused on torture allegations at Afghan prisons creates political complications for the international community at a time when foreign forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan:

"What is clear is that on a very fundamental level -- in terms of the discipline of these Afghan forces and their respect for international law -- we've found them failing," he said.

"So this is a major indicator that the Afghan forces are not prepared for this kind of responsibility. It's going to be hard to see how the handover can continue on the very ambitious timetable that a lot of Western capitals had imposed on Afghanistan."

The UNAMA spokesman in Kabul, Dan McNorton, says the UN has shared its findings with the Afghan authorities.

McNorton said authorities in Kabul "are taking the findings very seriously and are proposing a series of remedial actions."

McNorton said the pending UNAMA report did not indicate an institutional or government policy of mistreatment.

The international coalition has pushed to give the Afghan authorities more responsibility for oversight of Afghans taken into jail because of suspected insurgent activity.

with agency reports

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/nato_afghanistan_prisons_unama_report/24320574.html

Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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