KABUL (Reuters) - The U.S. military in Afghanistan vowed Monday to pursue anyone accused of abusing prisoners following allegations of beating and sexual assault at its secretive network of detention centers across the country.
The military's criminal investigation division has yet to
complete an inquiry into the deaths of two Afghans in U.S.
custody in December 2002, causing frustration and anger among
relatives and friends of the young men who died.
Keen to avoid the same backlash in Afghanistan that its
abuse of prisoners in Iraq triggered, the military launched two
new investigations last week into alleged mistreatment similar
to that suffered by inmates near Baghdad.
"There is no lack of will to pursue the perpetrators of any
kind of alleged abuse, none at all," said U.S. military
spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Tucker Mansager, when asked why
relatives of the men who died in custody were still awaiting an
"The investigation is very complicated...due to the fact
that our rotation system here in Afghanistan has people leaving
not only Afghanistan, but in some cases reverting back
to...careers in the civilian world where they are not easily
John Sifton, Afghan researcher at Human Rights Watch,
called the length of time the investigation had taken
"If the U.S. military accidentally killed a Korean or
Japanese or German citizen, it is difficult to imagine 18
months passing without any explanation. It is deeply
disrespectful to Afghans and the Afghan government," he said
Over the weekend Reuters tracked down the family of
Dilawar, who died in 2002 at the main U.S. jail at Bagram,
north of Kabul. The 22-year-old was taken to the secretive
prison on suspicion of supporting al Qaeda, but his family
insists he was a taxi driver.
In a remote village near the town of Khost, close to the
Pakistani border, Dilawar's three brothers regularly visit his
simple grave, while his elderly father struggles to make ends
meet now that the family's main bread-winner is dead.
"We ask the Americans: 'Why are you arresting and killing
innocent people?' We don't know how he was killed," said
Ibrahim, Dilawar's best friend. "We don't want the Americans in
our country. They should leave it for us."
Dilawar's death certificate shows he died of "blunt force
injuries" to his legs, which complicated a heart complaint.
Also in December 2002, another Bagram inmate died of similar
A third Afghan died at a detention center in Asadabad, in
the eastern province of Kunar, in June 2003. Even less is known
of his death than those of Dilawar and Mullah Habibullah.
Mansager said the U.S. military had revised procedures at
Bagram following the deaths 18 months ago, and continued to
make changes based on recommendations from the International
Committee of the Red Cross, which regularly visits the center.
He added that the ICRC had made a request last week to
visit a jail at Kandahar, but no decision had been taken on
"If Kandahar is being used as a detention facility and
people are being detained there, we would expect to have access
to them," ICRC Kabul spokeswoman Jessica Barry said.
Mansager said he did not know how many detention centers
there were in Afghanistan. Some military bases in the south and
east of the country have small holding cells, from where
suspects are supposed to be taken to Bagram as soon as
The Americans' treatment of hundreds of al Qaeda and
Taliban suspects rounded up since the Islamic regime's collapse
in 2001 has come under renewed scrutiny since a former police
officer said he had been beaten and sexually abused.
Sayed Nabi Siddiqui complained of sleep deprivation,
kicking and taunts during around 40 days in U.S. custody last
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