Swapping Barbarism in Afghanistan’s Prisons

The Washington Post reports that “NATO has resumed handing over Taliban detainees to the custody of Afghanistan’s government, following a break of nearly four months after the coalition halted the practice on the grounds that prisoners faced torture by Afghan interrogators.” So, the American torturers are swapping with the Afghan torturers.

This swap began in part after an Afghan investigative commission accused the American military of abusing detainees in the Bagram prison facilities and reiterated President Hamid Karzai’s demand that the U.S. turn the detainees over to Afghan custody. Karzai’s made a statement citing reports of human rights abuse at the facility and said U.S. control of the prison and indefinite detention of Afghan citizens violated the Afghan Constitution as well as international covenants. And he was right: Most of the 3,000 or so detainees in Bagram have been physically abused, have not been charged, have seen no evidence against them, and do not have the right to be represented by a lawyer. Attorney for Human Rights First Daphne Eviatar said in a recent CBS interview that “It’s worse than Guantanamo, because there are fewer rights.”

And then there are the Afghan prisons. Back in October, the United Nations released a report which found that detainees in Afghan-controlled prisons are hung from the ceilings by their wrists, severely beaten with cables and wooden sticks, have their toenails torn off, are treated with electric shock, and even have their genitals twisted until they lose consciousness. The study, which covered 47 facilities sites in 22 provinces, found “a compelling pattern and practice of systematic torture and ill-treatment” during interrogation by U.S.-supported Afghan authorities. And they weren’t all alone: both U.S. and NATO military trainers and counterparts have been working closely with these authorities, consistently supervising the detention facilities and funding their operations.

The Post story indicates that the “Afghan government has replaced the directors of several of the facilities in recent months” in response to allegations of abuse. In reality, Karzai has been transferring control of Afghan prisons from the Justice Ministry to the Interior Ministry. Not a good sign. The Interior Ministry operates the Afghan National Police, a gang of thugs implicated in a long and ugly list of torture and other ill treatment. “Criminal justice in Afghanistan will not be improved by giving the police free rein of the prisons,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Greater police involvement in jails is likely to lead to more torture, not less.”

It’s a nice metaphor for the entire war project in Afghanistan, actually: shifting (back and forth) from U.S. barbarity to the barbarity of the puppet government supported by the U.S. Your choice, Afghans.

2 thoughts on “Swapping Barbarism in Afghanistan’s Prisons”

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  2. The Interior Ministry operates the Afghan National Police, a gang of thugs implicated in a long and ugly list of torture and other ill treatment.

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