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UN Assistance Mission Report on Torture in Afghan Detention Centers

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 3:56 PM

Over the weekend, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (“UNAMA”) released its report on the treatment of conflict-related detainees in Afghan prisons. Needless to say, it’s not terribly uplifting. From the executive summary (internal footnotes have been excised):

Further to its mandate from the United Nations Security Council to assist the Government of Afghanistan to improve respect for the rule of law and human rights including in the prison sector, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) visited 89 detention facilities in 30 provinces between October 2011 and October 2012 to observe treatment of conflict-related detainees and the Government’s compliance with due process obligations under Afghan and international human rights law. During these visits, UNAMA interviewed 635 pre-trial detainees and convicted prisoners including 105 children detained by the Afghan National Police, National Directorate of Security, Afghan National Army or Afghan Local Police for national security crimes or crimes related to the armed conflict.

The National Directorate of Security and the Ministry of Interior cooperated with UNAMA and provided access to almost all detention facilities and detainees. UNAMA regularly requested meetings with the National Directorate of Security and the Ministry of Interior/Afghan National Police and met numerous times with officials in Kabul and across the country over the 12-month observation period to share appropriate information, and discuss concerns and follow up measures.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), other international military forces and foreign intelligence agencies continue to have a role in detention of individuals for conflict-related offences through involvement in the capture and transfer of detainees to Afghan custody. In September 2011, ISAF launched a six-phase detention facility monitoring programme that initially covered 16 NDS and ANP facilities. During UNAMA’s 12-month observation period, UNAMA met with ISAF officials to discuss ISAF’s detention programme and related matters. Using internationally accepted methodology, standards and best practices, UNAMA’s detention observation from October 2011 to October 2012 found that despite Government and international efforts to address torture and ill-treatment of conflict related detainees, torture persists and remains a serious concern in numerous detention facilities across Afghanistan.

UNAMA found sufficiently credible and reliable evidence that more than half of 635 detainees interviewed (326 detainees) experienced torture and ill-treatment in numerous facilities of the Afghan National Police (ANP), National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan Local Police (ALP) between October 2011 and October 2012. This finding is similar to UNAMA’s findings for October 2010-11 which determined that almost half of the detainees interviewed who had been held in NDS facilities and one third of detainees interviewed who had been held in ANP facilities experienced torture or ill-treatment at the hands of ANP or NDS officials. (See Map 2).

UNAMA’s new study noted that while the incidence of torture in ANP or ANBP facilities increased compared to the previous period, detainees interviewed in NDS custody experienced torture and ill-treatment at a rate that was slightly lower than the previous period. UNAMA observed that of the 105 child detainees interviewed, 80 children (76 percent) experienced torture or ill-treatment, an increase of 14 percent compared to UNAMA’s previous findings.

Read the full report here.

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