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The Killid Group
Torture flourishes under secrecyWritten by AAN
Sunday, 08 April 2012 09:57
A new report on torture has again implicated the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and police facilities and raised troubling questions of the US military’s possible complicity. An analysis by Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, a Killid partner.
Fresh evidence of abuse in more than a dozen NDS and police facilities has been presented in a report by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and Open Societies Foundations (OSF). The allegations, which include testimony of security detainees being beaten, given electric shocks and having their genitals wrenched, were described by the NDS as “baseless”. In October 2011, when UNAMA made similar revelations, ISAF was forced to stop transferring detainees to facilities where there was evidence of torture and to institute a monitoring mechanism.
The new report has found fresh grounds for concern, including over the role of the US Special Forces and the CIA. It questions whether the current safeguards are sufficient to, “ensure that the United States is not complicit in torture”.
The report’s allegations have been rejected by the Ministry of Interior, although it said it would investigate any allegations made against the Afghan National Police (ANP). In public at least, NDS has dismissed the whole report, a stronger stance than in October.
ISAF and the forces operating under Operation Enduring Freedom (mostly US Special Operations Forces or SOF) stopped handing over detainees to 16 facilities where there was credible evidence of torture, until and unless they could be investigated and certified to be working without abuse. The new regime extended to banning the handover of detainees picked up during joint Afghan/international operations to those facilitates. It also required detainees who had been handed over to be monitored. The Afghan government, according to AIHRC/OSF, has also largely responded positively to demands for greater access to facilities and has established a human rights unit within the NDS to investigate allegations of abuse.
However, fresh evidence of abuse from Herat and Kandahar suggests the monitoring systems set up by both Afghan and international military are not yet working well enough to protect detainees. Detainees arrested in joint operations are being transferred by US forces and subsequently being tortured.
The authors of the new report found evidence that NDS has been “moving” torture around, either to sites not on the UNAMA list or to secret sites, and of moving prisoners to hidden rooms when monitors were due to visit.
The new report also said the AIHRC had been blocked from visiting some facilitates, despite its constitutional authority to do so. These include one of the most notorious sites, the 90th/124th (counter-terrorism) department of NDS which is located in Shashdarak, in the same area of the Afghan capital as the Ministry of Defence, the headquarters of ISAF and the CIA, the US embassy (among others) and, a little further away, the residence of the United Nations Special Envoy.
AIHRC/OSF have also uncovered evidence that US forces are not yet fully complying with the new “post-UNAMA” regime and they raise the question of the US military’s possible complicity in torture. In particular, the report provides significant new information pointing to the troubling role played by US SOF and the CIA.
So who is handing over detainees to NDS Kandahar, in breach of the new “post-UNAMA” rules?
Interviews with detainees as well as responses by US officials to queries from the AIHRC and the Open Society Foundations indicate that there may be US forces or personnel, perhaps including CIA or other US intelligence officials, operating outside ISAF and USFOR-A commands in Kandahar that are detaining individuals and transferring them to NDS Kandahar.
However, the report also reveals an alarming number of torture cases relating to the police in Kandahar which, the report notes, “is playing a prominent role in counter-terrorism and national security cases… including working closely with US and ISAF forces in major operations during 2010 and 2011.”
These are not the only dubious working relationships thrown up by this report. It also notes the “continued cooperation” between “non-ISAF SOF” and CIA personnel and NDS officials, in particular those from the notorious 90th/124th Department in Kabul. The international military often claims it can institute good practice by working with Afghan forces even when they are accused of committing crimes and abuses. Yet this report highlights once again that good relationships with foreign forces frequently helps protect the abusers, giving them effective impunity.
There are also concerns over the continuing handover of detainees from a black site in Bagram directly to NDS and their subsequent torture. Four detainees said they had been arrested and held in Bagram and, from the detail of their accounts, the report says it is likely they were not held at the long-term, US-run (but soon to be handed over to the Afghan state) Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP), but probably at a temporary holding facility run by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the body responsible for the kill/capture programme. This is located at Bagram Air base, says the report, and is known by detainees as the “Tor” Jail (Pashto for ‘Black’ Jail).