New report lifts lid on torture in Afghan prisons


A new report suggests that torture in Afghan prisons is more widespread than previously thought and that detainees arrested by US troops have been tortured after being transferred to Afghan custody.
Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission raised “serious concerns” about US policies on detainee transfers and safeguards to make sure that the United States is not complicit in torture.
It said detainees were tortured at nine National Directorate of Security (NDS) prisons and at several police centres, based on monitoring and interviews with more than 100 detainees between February 2011 and January 2012.
Beatings, being suspended from the ceiling, electric shocks, threatened or actual sexual abuse, and other forms of abuse, were used routinely to obtain confessions or other information, the Commission said.
“Four of the NDS facilities where torture was documented were also identified by a recent United Nations report as practicing torture. Monitors also found evidence of torture at five additional NDS facilities,” it said.
Several methods of torture, previously denied by the NDS, such as electric shocks and threats of sexual abuses, were also confirmed in interviews.
The report, “Torture, Transfers and Denial of Due Process”, also found “credible evidence” that some detainees transferred to Afghan authorities by international forces had been tortured.
“Ten cases were documented of individuals detained by US forces between May 2010 and January 2012, and then transferred to NDS facilities where they alleged they were subsequently tortured,” the report said.
Last October, a UN report accused the Afghan security forces of systematically torturing detainees, including children, in detention centres.
After that, the Commission said NATO’s US-led mission suspended all detainee transfers to facilities of concern, initiated a regime to address problems and proposed an ambitious monitoring programme.
But it said the monitoring system may not be sufficient and that the United States had failed to implement a monitoring procedure for detainees arrested by US troops, such as special forces, who operate outside the NATO mission.
US-led foreign combat troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan and transfer responsibility for national security to Afghans by the end of 2014.
As part of that transition process, the United States earlier this month signed a deal set to transfer authority for a controversial US-run prison at Bagram airbase to Afghans within six months.
“Urgent action is required, and the Afghan government, with the support of its international partners, must take immediate, effective steps to address mistreatment and torture of conflict-related detainees,” the report said.