UN report finds evidence of children being tortured in Afghan detention facilities


UNITED NATIONS (BNO NEWS) -- Afghan detention facilities, which also hold children, have allegedly been carrying out 'systematic' torture and mistreatment of detainees, according to a newly-released United Nations (UN) report.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) carried out an extensive investigation for the report, interviewing 379 pre-trial detainees and convicted prisoners at 47 facilities of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Afghan National Police (ANP) in 22 provinces from October 2010 to August. The report is the result of the investigation.

According to UNAMA, there is "compelling" evidence that 125 detainees, or 46 percent, of the 273 detainees interviewed who had been in NDS detention experienced interrogation techniques at the hands of NDS officials that constituted torture, and that torture is practiced "systematically" in a number of NDS detention facilities throughout Afghanistan.

The report also revealed that nearly all detainees tortured by NDS officials reported that the abuse took place during interrogations and was aimed at obtaining a confession or information.

In almost every case, NDS officials stopped the use of torture once detainees confessed to the crime of which they were accused or provided the requested information. Interrogations of individuals detained on suspicion of crimes against the State were typically the situations where torture occurred.

In addition, UNAMA found that children under the age of 18 years also experienced torture by NDS officials. More than one third of the 117 conflict-related detainees who had been in ANP detention said they experienced treatment that constituted torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, it said.

The investigation found that methods of torture included suspension - being hung by the wrists from chains or other devices attached to the wall, ceiling, iron bars or other fixtures for lengthy periods - and beatings, especially with rubber hoses, electric cables or wires or wooden sticks and most frequently on the soles of the feet.

Among other forms of torture that detainees reported were electric shock, twisting and wrenching of detainees' genitals, stress positions including forced standing, removal of toenails and threatened sexual abuse. The report also showed that routine blindfolding, hooding and denial of access to medical care in some facilities were not uncommon.

The report further found that accountability of NDS and ANP officials for torture and abuse was "weak, not transparent and rarely enforced." The mission documented one death in ANP and NDS custody from torture in Kandahar last April.

Nonetheless, Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, noted the possibility of change and reform, pointing out that the report's findings indicate that mistreatment is not an institutional or Government policy.

"The fact that the NDS and MoI [Ministry of Interior] cooperated with UNAMA's detention observation program suggests that reform is both possible and desired, as does the Government's announced remedial actions to end these abusive practices," said de Mistura.

De Mistura on behalf of UNAMA also welcomed the Government's timely attention to the issue and steps taken to put in place corrective and preventive measures. Following the mission's presentation of its initial findings to Afghan authorities, officials launched their own investigations and initiated remedial action.

NDS and MoI have stated clearly they have an action plan to address the concerns, started investigations, reassigned personnel in the case of NDS, and have further indicated that responsible individuals will be suspended from their positions and, in serious cases, prosecuted.

The report also includes a number of recommendations to the involved authorities including the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

In early September, ISAF stopped transferring detainees to 16 installations identified as facilities where UNAMA found compelling evidence of such cases of torture and ill-treatment and has begun implementing a six-part plan of remedial measures prior to resuming such transfers.

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