News / Asia

Afghan Prisoner Abuse Could Trigger Some Aid Suspension

An Afghan National Army soldier stands in front of the gate of the newly refurbished Pul-e-Charkhy prison during an opening ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2007 (file photo)
An Afghan National Army soldier stands in front of the gate of the newly refurbished Pul-e-Charkhy prison during an opening ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2007 (file photo)
Gary Thomas

A new United Nations report says Afghan police and intelligence officers are systematically torturing some detainees in their custody.  The abuses detailed in the report were found to be so widespread that the U.S. and its allies have suspended turning over suspected Taliban detainees to Afghan government control in some areas. The U.S. may also have to suspend some security aid to units involved in the abuses.

In a detailed report drawn from interviews with over 300 detainees, the United Nations found torture to be widespread at detention facilities run by the Afghan National Directorate of Security, or NDS, and the Afghan National Police, the ANP.

The U.N. mission found that police and intelligence officers routinely beat suspects, subjected them to electric shock, wrenched out their toenails, and sexually abused them.  The report says the abuse became so pervasive that in July U.S. and NATO forces stopped handing over suspected Taliban members to Afghan-run detention facilities in several provinces.

The Afghan government denies the worst of the allegations, but acknowledges what it calls "deficiencies" in the detainee system.

The ANP and the NDS are being trained by U.S. and allied forces.  As Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch, points out, the U.N. report puts the U.S. in an awkward position. “This report clearly implicates the NDS, the intelligence service in Afghanistan, and also some police units.  So the implication of that is that those units are going to have to clean up their act. And the U.S. embassy is going to have to work very hard with the Afghan government to ensure that that happens, if U.S. assistance is going to continue," he said.

As the U.N. report itself points out, torture and ill-treatment could spark invocation of the so-called “Leahy law.”  That law, named after its sponsor, Sen. Patrick Leahy, stipulates that the U.S. cut off funding, training, and weapons to any unit of a foreign country if they have committed gross human rights violations.

Malinowski says the Obama administration has no choice but to invoke the provisions of the law. “Well, they have to invoke it. It’s not an option. It’s not something that they will or will not do based on me calling on them to do it.  It’s something that they have to do under the law.  And I imagine that they will because the evidence here is so clear," he said.

Mike Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina, who has served as a legal advisor to Senator Leahy among others, says that does not mean the U.S. would cut off security assistance to Afghanistan, only to specific units. “If you take its language literally, it has to do with withdrawing support for a particular unit that is found to be committing violations.  So that might be a very specific thing, and the money could be moved elsewhere. So it’s hard to say how much of an impact it would have.  Much depends on the extensiveness of the violations," he said.

But there is a loophole.  

According to the language of the law, its provisions to cut off aid may not be invoked if the secretary of state determines that the concerned government is taking effective remedial measures.

Mike Gerhardt says the decision is not a cut-and-dried legal one. “Well, it would be both a political and a legal decision. Obviously they’d probably want to ensure that they’re doing something that’s consistent with the law.  And at the same time, they’ve got to take into account the political and other ramifications of their decisions," he said.

Tom Malinowski says the Afghan intelligence service as a whole could be sanctioned, but adds that it could escape punishment if its assistance comes from the CIA and other intelligence agencies. “I think the NDS would count as a unit under the Leahy law. What’s less clear to me is what assistance the NDS gets. And I think it may well not be - and this is maybe where things get a bit murky - it may not be assistance that passes through the State or Defense Department budget.  It may be something that passes through the intelligence budget," he said.

U.S. officials say the Embassy in Kabul is devising a monitoring system for Afghan-run detention centers, and a NATO statement says allied officials are working with the U.S. to establish new safeguards to prevent detainee abuse.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid