Suspected Taliban fighters have been subjected to beatings, electric shocks and other forms of torture in some Afghan-run detention centers but the abuse was not the result of government policy, the United Nations said today.
The 74-page U.N. report found that detainees in 47 facilities in 24 provinces run by the Afghan National Police and the Directorate of Security suffered interrogation techniques that constituted torture under both international and Afghan law.
The NATO-led international military coalition announced last month that it had stopped transferring detainees to 16 of the facilities. NATO was taking action to help fix the problem before resuming the transfers, the report said.
The report said Afghan security ministries cooperated with the investigation and have taken measures to stop the abuse after being presented with the report. Although Afghan security officials have long been suspected of torturing detainees to elicit information and confessions, the report for the first time confirms the practice and outlines much of the abuse.
International organizations and governments have spent years trying to bring good governance and rule of law to Afghanistan, a goal that has taken added significance following a decision to hand over security responsibilities to the Afghan government by the end of 2014 — when all foreign combat troops are to leave the country.
Drafted by the U.N.'s Afghan mission, known as UNAMA, the report was based on interviews with 379 detainees being held at the various facilities and conducted from October 2010 to August 2011.
The report said most of the detainees were "suspected of being Taliban fighters, suicide attack facilitators, producers of improvised explosive devices, and others implicated in crimes associated with the armed conflict in Afghanistan."
It said it "found the use of interrogation techniques that constitute torture under international law and crimes under Afghan law, as well as other forms of mistreatment."
The report said torture methods included suspending people by their wrists, beating the soles of the feet, electric shocks, twisting detainees' genitals, removing toe nails and being put in stress positions.
UNAMA said the torture aimed to obtain information and confessions, which it said are often the sole form of evidence submitted in Afghan criminal trials. Judges often find such confessions "both persuasive and conclusive of the defendant's guilt."
Afghan authorities have taken steps to stop the abuse, UNAMA said.
The report said that Afghan officials have "stated clearly" that they have a plan to address the concerns. They have opened investigations, reassigned personnel and have indicated that those responsible will be suspended from their positions and in serious cases, prosecuted, the report said.
The report was issued as part of a U.N. program to observe detention facilities.
"UNAMA's findings indicate that mistreatment is not an institutional or government policy," said Staffan de Mistura, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan.
He added that Afghan government cooperation "suggests that reform is both possible and desired as does the government's announced remedial actions to end these abusive practices."
The European Union also said it welcomed the Afghan government's commitment to stop abuse.
"The EU reiterates that all concerned parties must respect and guarantee the fundamental rights of all detainees, to eradicate all forms of torture and ill-treatment, to bring those responsible for such acts to justice and to adhere to and comply with the relevant international norms and standards," said Vygaudas Usackas, the head of the EU's delegation and its special representative to Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior said five Afghan civilians died in twin explosions Monday in the Dangam district of Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan.
A civilian vehicle struck a roadside bomb, shortly followed by another blast that hit passers-by running to the scene to help. Four people were killed and two wounded, the ministry said.
NATO also said one of its service members died in southern Afghanistan. It said an investigation was launched into the death to determine the circumstances. It provided no further details.
A total of seven NATO members have died in Afghanistan in October, and 461 since the start of the year.