Afghanistan admits to detainee torture

Panel says abuse not systemic; USstarts pullout

Rights activists are concerned that abuses in Afghanistan could become more common as global forces draw down.
Allauddin Khan/Associated Press/File 2011
Rights activists are concerned that abuses in Afghanistan could become more common as global forces draw down.

KABUL — An Afghan government panel acknowledged Monday that detainees face widespread torture but denied there is systematic abuse in government-run prisons.

The panel’s findings were the result of a two-week fact-finding mission following a UN report last month that said Afghan authorities are still torturing prisoners despite promises of reforms. The country’s intelligence service earlier had denied any torture in its detention facilities.

The complaints have prompted NATO to stop many transfers of detainees to the Afghans.


The UN report said more than half of the 635 detainees interviewed had been tortured — about the same ratio found in its first report in 2011. It cited brutal tactics including hanging detainees from the ceiling by their wrists, beating them with cables, and administering electric shocks.

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The Afghan panel denied the allegation in the UN report that the government appeared to be trying to hide the mistreatment by moving detainees to secret locations during inspections by international observers.

Many rights activists have expressed concern that such abuses could become more common as international forces draw down and the country’s Western allies exert less oversight on a government that has taken few concrete actions to reform the system.

The United States began its withdrawal from Afghanistan in earnest over the weekend, sending the first of what will be tens of thousands of containers home through Pakistan.

The shipment of 50 containers came as a new US commander took control of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan to guide the coalition through the end stages of a war that has lasted more than 11 years.


Marine General Joseph Dunford received the prisoner abuse report one day after taking command. The abused prisoners include detainees taken off the battlefield by coalition and Afghan troops. Dunford’s predecessor, Marine General John Allen, had urged the Afghan government to investigate allegations of detainee abuse.

UN complaints about the torture of detainees in Afghan facilities last year prompted the US-led NATO coalition to stop many transfers of detainees to the Afghans, a key part of the transition process.

Abdul Qadir Adalatkhwa, head of the Afghan commission investigating the abuse, told reporters that torture and beatings occur in the first stages of the arrest ‘‘but not while they are in prison.’’

The delegation visited male and female prisons and juvenile detention facilities.

Adalatkhwa said 148 of 284 prisoners interviewed in the provinces of Kabul, Kandahar, and Herat complained of torture and misbehavior at the time of their arrest and during the interrogation period.


Of those, 136 cases were confirmed, he said. The panel also interviewed 23 female detainees and found no confirmed allegations of rape and abuses.

The government-appointed commission plans to discuss the findings during a meeting with judicial officials and President Hamid Karzai this week at the presidential palace, Adalatkhwa said.