The New York Times, September 6, 2011
Afghan Jails Accused of Torture; NATO Limits Transfers
Human rights groups have long complained about abuse and appalling conditions in the Afghan prison network
By Ray Rivera
KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO has temporarily stopped transferring detainees to a number of Afghan jails after accusations of torture and abuse were uncovered in a report to be published soon, NATO and United Nations officials said Tuesday.
The findings in the report, by the United Nations Assistance Mission Afghanistan, involve at least six detention centers run by the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency, and three jails operated by the Ministry of Justice. NATO officials, who would not discuss the specifics of the report, said they would investigate the findings, which have also been turned over to Afghan government officials.
A general view of the Kandahar prison (AFP/File)
“With appropriate caution, I.S.A.F. has taken the prudent measure to suspend detainee transfer to certain facilities until we can verify the observations in a pending Unama report,” NATO said in a statement, referring to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
Human rights groups have long complained about abuse and appalling conditions in the Afghan prison network. Those concerns have grown as the prison population has exploded, from 600 prisoners in 2001 to about 19,000 now, according to figures in a United Nations report.
Adding to the strain are the thousands of detainees captured by NATO forces each year and turned over to Afghan authorities.
NATO and United Nations officials declined to say which detention centers are to be named in the coming report. The British Broadcasting Corporation, which reported the suspension, listed security directorate facilities in Herat, Khost, Laghman, Kapisa, Takhar and the agency’s main counterterrorism detention center. The news service also listed jails in Kunduz and Oruzgan.
Dan McNorton, a United Nations spokesman, said the findings of the report had been shared with the Afghanistan government.
“We understand they’re taking the findings very seriously and are proposing a series of remedial actions,” Mr. McNorton said. “Our findings indicate that the mistreatment of detainees is not institutional or the policy of the government of Afghanistan.”
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