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US Completes Prison Review in Afghanistan, Makes Changes - 2004-08-09


The U.S. military in Afghanistan has completed a "top-to-bottom" review of its detention facilities, and will change some prison practices. The investigation comes as the Afghan government pushes for U.S. troops to improve their relations with locals.

U.S. military spokesman Major Scott Nelson says, based on the review, changes have already been made at military prisons throughout Afghanistan.

"The things that were found from the inspection were identified, and there were corrective actions taken on those, which means improvements in the facilities on how detainees come into the facilities, how they're reported," Major Scott Nelson says.

He said Monday that details of the policy changes, along with the findings of the review would be released in a report at a later date.

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General David Barno, ordered the investigation earlier this year, following charges of abuse against Afghans in U.S. custody.

Some former prisoners have reported beatings and sexual assault while in detention.

The topic is a sensitive one for the military, following a scandal involving U.S. prison guards allegedly torturing detainees in Iraq.

Despite pressure from human rights groups, the U.S. military has said it will not allow independent observers, other than the International Committee of the Red Cross, to visit detainees. The Red Cross findings are not made public.

Afghan Independent Human Rights Commissioner Ahmad Nader Nadery says the ban against visits makes it impossible to verify whether abuses are taking place.

"We have no access, and it's very difficult for us to get information. The only information we have is based on interviews," Mr. Nadery says.

The Afghan government also is concerned over tensions between its citizens and the U.S. forces in the country.

Major Nelson says General Barno was called into a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week to discuss the issue.

"Some Afghans have complained that the coalition operations were at times insensitive to local customs and courtesies, and that night operations were disruptive," Major Nelson says.

He added that the U.S.-led coalition forces believe themselves to be "guests" in Afghanistan, helping provide security for the government put in place after the United States and its Afghan allies ousted the former Taleban administration.

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