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In this file photo, a prisoner looks out of his cell window at the main prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan, File)

UN Report Finds Torture, Disappearances in Afghan Jails

Jon Queally

As the war inside Afghanistan grinds on, a new UN survey shows that US- and NATO-backed Afghan security forces have been ruthless in their treatment of detainees with widespread reports of systematic torture, gross mistreatment and possible disappearances happening in the country's growing system of detention centers and prisons.

In the report released Sunday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) found that "despite significant efforts by the Government of Afghanistan and international partners to address ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees, torture persists and remains a serious concern in numerous detention facilities across Afghanistan."

The report identified 14 different methods of torture and ill-treatment practices, including beatings, threats of execution and sexual abuse.

As a review of the full report by the Associated Press found, "Afghan authorities leave detainees hanging from the ceiling by their wrists, beat them with cables and wooden sticks, administer electric shocks, twist their genitals and threaten to shove bottles up their anuses or to kill them."

"UNAMA found a persistent lack of accountability for perpetrators of torture with few investigations and no prosecutions for those responsible,” said Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights for UNAMA. “The findings highlight that torture cannot be addressed by training, inspections and directives alone but requires sound accountability measures to stop and prevent its use. Without deterrents and disincentives to use torture, including a robust, independent investigation process, criminal prosecutions and courts’ consistent refusal to accept confessions gained through torture, Afghan officials have no incentive to stop torture.”

Additionally troubling was that this latest review showed that the level of mistreatment had increased since a similar review was conducted twelve months prior.

The full report can be downloaded here (pdf).

And The Guardian adds:

The UN team, which visited 89 detention centres and was denied access to just one intelligence service jail, found "multiple credible and reliable incidents of torture and ill-treatment had occurred particularly in 34 facilities".

The torture was systematic in seven police jails and two intelligence detention centres, all but one of them in Kandahar, birthplace of the Taliban and long a stronghold of the insurgency. Torture by police and intelligence officials "was most prevalent" in Kandahar, the UN said.

It is also the only place where "disappearances" in police custody were reported.

Ten other intelligence service prisons and 15 other police jails across Afghanistan had multiple reports of torture, but the only other place where systematic use of torture was reported was the intelligence service's counter-terrorism centre in Kabul.

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