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UN: Afghanistan Makes 'Some Progress' in Preventing Torture

FILE - A prisoner looks out of his cell window at the main prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The United Nations says Afghanistan has made "some progress" in efforts over the last two years to prevent torture and ill-treatment at government detention facilities, but more than one third of those detained still report being mistreated.

"More remains to be done, however, and I welcome the new administration's immediate attention to end these practices,” said the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) chief Nicholas Haysom in a report issued Wednesday. He cited President Ashram Ghani's national unity government's commitment to implement a new national plan to eliminate of torture.

The U.N. report shows a 14 percent decrease in the number of detainees tortured or ill-treated compared to the previous reporting period, with more than one-third of all detainees interviewed found to have endured ill-treatment or torture.

It says the decrease is due to new government policies and directives banning torture, increased inspection visits to detention facilities, focused training on alternative interrogation techniques and other measures following a Presidential Decree issued two years ago.

The U.N. report released Wednesday is the third report on the treatment of conflict-related detainees in Afghan custody and its findings are based on interviews with 790 conflict-related detainees between February 2013 and December 2014.

The report shows a "persistent lack of accountability" with a single criminal prosecution for torture observed since 2010, despite numerous verified incidents raised with officials over the course of the observation period.

An Afghan presidential statement said the government remains committed to addressing all of the allegations cited in the report.

The statement said that any torture and ill-treatment of detainees stands contrary to Afghanistan’s constitution, all applicable laws and the policy of the government. It said that the acknowledgement on part of the UNAMA that the number of cases involving ill-treatment or torture is lower than the previous observations shows a positive change in the situation.

“Despite the positive change, the government of Afghanistan does not see it as enough and remains strongly committed to a complete elimination of any ill-treatment and torture in its detention centers,” the Afghan statement said.