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US Commander Orders Thorough Review of Coalition's Prisons in Afghanistan - 2004-05-19


The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has ordered "a top to bottom" review and assessment of coalition's detention centers across the country.

A general from the international coalition force will be appointed to carry out the assessment of about 20 U.S. prison camps across Afghanistan.

U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager in Kabul said the general would send conclusions and recommendations to the commander of the U.S. forces. The report is to be completed by mid-June.

?The appointed general will physically visit every facility to ensure that internationally accepted standards of holding detainees are being met,? he said. ?He will ensure facilities are adequate, procedures are in accordance with the spirit of Geneva Conventions and are being followed correctly and fully, and that staffing and capabilities are adequate to the task.?

The U.S. military has recently begun investigating allegations of mistreatment of Afghan detainees. But Colonel Mansager says the decision to review the detention centers is not linked to those allegations. Instead, the decision was made to look at the entire system, to ensure the Geneva Conventions, which govern how prisoners of war can be treated, are enforced.

The United States leads a coalition of international troops in Afghanistan that is hunting suspected members of the al Qaida terror group and militant holdouts from the former Taleban government. The coalition holds large numbers of suspects in prison.

Afghan and international human rights groups have documented numerous cases of mistreatment in U.S.-run prisons. They specifically cited the deaths of three detainees while in custody in 2002 and 2003, which are now under investigation. But the military has resisted calls for access to the detention facilities.

Colonel Mansager says that policy remains unchanged. ?It is the coalition's continued policy to treat persons under confinement in the spirit of the Geneva Conventions to ensure that the persons under confinement are not subject to any kind of exploitation. It is the coalition's position that allowing media into the facilities would compromise that protection,? he added.

The U.S. military says it has made several changes in the living conditions of the detainees, their food, and their treatment. It says many of the changes were made after the deaths of two prisoners in December 2002.

In addition to allegations of abuse in Afghanistan, the United States faces a growing scandal involving prisoner abuse in Iraq.

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