“The United Nations said Sunday that Afghan authorities were still torturing prisoners, such as hanging them by their wrists and beating them with cables, a year after the U.N. first documented the abuse and the Afghan government promised detention reform.” The most recent report shows that Afghanistan has made minimal progress in bringing the abuse to a halt, despite the fact that the United Nations and international military forces had made an effort to do so. One detainee described his experience to the United Nations team where he said that “they laid me on the ground. One of them sat on my feet and another one sat on my head, and the third one took a pipe and started beating me with it. They were beating me for…one hour and were…telling me that ‘You are with the Taliban and this is what you deserve.’” More than one half of the 635 interviewed detainees reported that they had been tortured, which was roughly the same number as the first report issued in 2011.
The slow progress being made has forced NATO to stop many transfers of detainees to Afghanistan authorities due to a concern that the detainees may be tortured. Despite the United Nations Report, the Afghan government has denied the torture allegations based on the findings of their internal monitoring committee who found that “the allegations of torture of detainees were untrue and thus disproved.” However, the government stated “it would not completely rule out the possibility of torture at its detention facilities, but that it was nowhere near the levels described in the report and that it was checking on reports of abuse.”
The findings in the report illustrate the human rights activists’ fear that this will become even more prevalent as international forces begin to withdraw from the country and become less watchful over the government. After the first report, NATO temporarily stopped transferring Afghans to national authorities until they reformed the prison system to put an end to abuse. Despite the fact that Afghan pledged to increase monitoring in return for the resumption of transfers and decreased inspections, little has changed. In response to the report, General Allen, commander of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, said that his staff had written letters to Afghan ministers requesting they investigate any allegations of abuse.
Aimal Faizi, spokesman for Afghan President, said that the torture and abuse was not a government policy and further stated that “we also question the motivations behind this report and the way it was conducted.” NATO has responded to this report by once again stopping the transfers of detainees to certain facilities (many of the same facilities as the first report). Is this the proper response by NATO?
This United Nations released this report quietly by simply posting it on the United Nations website to avoid “publicly antagonizing the Afghan government.” Do you agree with this strategy or should the report have been more public to draw awareness to this issue?
Georgette Gagnon, head of human rights for the U.N mission in Afghanistan, stated that “torture cannot be addressed by training, inspections, and directives alone.” Do you agree with this? If so, what do you think can be done to increase oversight and decrease the alleged torture?
The report describes these events as “’persistent lack of accountability for perpetrators of torture’ noting that no one has been prosecuted for prisoner abuse since the first report was released.” With that being said, what measures should be taken to increase accountability? Should the United States intervene and take action to ensure these alleged human rights elements come to an end?
This continuing story regarding torture in Afghan prisons is anything but surprising. Afghan authorities say the amount of torture is not of the level being claimed by NATO, and NATO is reporting on the high level of torture but then not intervening. My only thought is that the international community is to blame. We should not be sending any prisoners to these facilities. To address one of Peter’s questions, maybe we should have publicized the torture, but I doubt that it would have changed anything. The United States should be willing to aid the international community in combatting any jus cogens offenses, especially torture, war crimes, and genocide. However, it should be the international community, not the United States, leading the charge against these Afghan policies. Lastly, Peter may be correct in stating that the already low level of human rights protections may decrease even more in Afghanistan if/when international forces depart from the country. It should be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months.
It’s interesting to note here that although the Afghani government does not admit that the level of torture rises to the level claimed by NATO, they do recognize the “possibility” that it occurs at their facilities. Clearly the report is correct not only in the fact that the requisite level of accountability isn’t being taken by the government, but clearly none at all. Furthermore, I agree that degree of the torture committed here cannot necessarily be addressed through mere inspections and training. If the government is turning a blind eye to the abuses being committed here, or covering them up entirely, more aggressive reform is needed to prevent gross human rights violations in these prisons. At this stage, NATO’s response of stopping the transfers to these facilities is at a minimum adequate. This action fails to speak of the prisoners that are already detained in these terrible facilities. I certainly think that posting the report should have been more public to draw awareness to the issue, but I agree with Mr. Dowdle that it probably wouldn’t have sparked much radical change. The responsibility is now on the international bodies and courts to hold the Afghani government accountable for heinous human rights violations and pressure them into changing their policies.
I absolutely think that publicizing the report would have been the better route, even though I doubt it would have been more effective. Spreading awareness is always an important factor when trying to implement change. I agree with Mr. Dowdle that there is no surprise that torture is still prevalent in the Afghan prison systems. Although Afghan authorities claim that the torture does not rise to the level claimed by NATO, they do agree that this is a possibility. The mere possibility that this type and amount of torture may be happening is more than enough evidence for international bodies to intervene. The fact that they have failed to intervene at this point is an indicator about what is to come after international forces depart from the country. It will be interesting, but I am sure disappointing, to see what happens. Maybe the United States will be forced to intervene and offer its services in the future.
NATO responding to the report by stopping transfers to certain facilities is the minimum of what a proper response would be. Not only are some of the facilities the same ones from the previous report, but I agree with Kristen that Afghanistan’s “recognition” of the possibility of torture at their facilities needs to be addressed as well. I further agree with Kristen that “mere inspections and training” are not enough. But for Afghanistan to take this issue seriously and make changes means that NATO needs to come down harder on Afghanistan for essentially maintaining its inadequate level of human rights. While I can understand the UN not wanting to publicly antagonize Afghanistan, I feel that releasing the report under the radar on the UN website can be seen by Afghanistan as the UN condoning its behavior. Again, while “training, inspective, and directives alone” may not end this practice, that seems like a pretty good place to start.