Reuters, March 12, 2003

Afghan Police Accused of Rights Abuses

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan urgently needs to revamp its police force to stop officers violating human rights and instead protect the people, human rights group Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

The London-based rights watchdog said it had found evidence the Afghan police used torture during interrogations.

"Not only are police unable to guarantee the protection of human rights in Afghanistan, some members of the police are themselves involved in committing human rights violations," the group said in a statement on rebuilding the country´s police force.

Police have been suspected of severely beating individuals during interrogation and using electric shocks, Amnesty said.

Germany started helping re-build Afghanistan´s police force last year but the process is slow, hampered by low salaries and a lack of even basic equipment such as pens and paper.

"The reconstruction of a professional police force to uphold the rule of law across the country needs urgent attention," Amnesty said, urging the international community to provide technical and financial support.

Afghanistan has about 50,000 policemen but most of them are former fighters with little or no police training and they do not function as a united civilian force.

Their loyalties still rest with powerful regional commanders, with whom they fought against the former Taliban regime, Amnesty said.

"Many of the mujahideen (fighters) have been involved in armed conflict for much of their lives, and are accustomed to acting with impunity," it said.

An international security force is guarding Kabul, where life has largely returned to normal after years of fighting.

Amnesty´s research coordinator for Afghanistan, Margaret Ladner, told reporters the group had also unsuccessfully sought access to a U.S. detention center at Bagram, north of Kabul, to investigate allegations of torture.

"Allegations that there have been, that there is, torture, cruel or inhuman treatment or punishment in U.S. facilities calls for investigation," she said.

U.S. officials say prisoners there are treated humanely.

The U.S. military is investigating the deaths of two Afghans at the center in December which have been listed as homicides.

Most of the people who have been taken to the detention center are believed to have been members of the Taliban or the al Qaeda network, blamed for the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States

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