Afghan leader demands US action on prison abuses

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Afghanistan's President has demanded "very, very strong" action by the United States against any military personnel found to be abusing prisoners, after a newspaper revealed maltreatment of detainees at the main US base in Kabul.

Afghanistan's President has demanded "very, very strong" action by the United States against any military personnel found to be abusing prisoners, after a newspaper revealed maltreatment of detainees at the main US base in Kabul.

President Hamid Karzai also demanded greater control over US military operations here, including an end to raids by American troops on Afghans' homes without the knowledge of his administration.

"No operations inside Afghanistan should take place without the consultation of the Afghan government," the President said. He will raise both issues when he meets American leaders during a four-day visit to the US starting today.

Meanwhile, The Sun published another picture yesterday of Saddam Hussein in prison and robustly defended its decision to print such images, despite Pentagon claims that it may have violated the Geneva Conventions. Britain's best-selling daily newspaper angered Saddam's lawyers on Friday by publishing several photographs of the captive former Iraqi leader, including one showing him in his underpants.

US officials promised an aggressive investigation into who was responsible for the photographs, which they believe were taken more than a year ago. They said the images broke Pentagon rules and may have breached the Geneva Conventions.

But an unrepentant Sun followed up with another picture showing Saddam in a white robe behind a coil of barbed wire. He holds his palms outstretched and his head is slightly bowed, possibly in prayer.

The paper also published two more pictures of former senior Iraqi figures apparently in captivity. It identified a figure holding a walking stick as he stoops in front of a plastic chair in one grainy image as "Chemical Ali", Ali Hassan al-Majid, the former Saddam lieutenant blamed for chemical gas attacks on Iraqi Kurds.

Another picture showed Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, dubbed "Mrs Anthrax" by newspapers as she is accused of helping Saddam try to rebuild Iraq's biological warfare capacity in the 1990s.

The newspaper's defence editor, Tom Newton Dunn, in an article accompanying the pictures, wrote that Saddam was "hardly entitled to a single human courtesy" as 300,000 people had disappeared under his regime. "Being snapped in his Y-fronts is the least of Saddam's worries as he faces a possible death sentence for his crimes against his own people," The Sun added in a leader article.

The Afghan abuse allegations were in a New York Times report, which cited a confidential 2,000-page file on the US army's criminal investigation into the deaths of two Afghans at the Bagram base north of the capital, Kabul, in December 2002.

Mr Karzai told reporters before leaving Kabul: "It has shocked me totally. We condemn it. We want the US government to take very, very strong action to take away people like that [who] are working with their forces in Afghanistan."

The NYT reported that the file of the criminal investigation "depicts poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse", which in some instances "was directed or carried out by interrogators to extract information".

It reported that one of the two Afghans, a 22-year-old taxi driver, had been pummelled on his legs by guards for several days and chained by his arms to the ceiling. Most of the interrogators believed he was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the base at the wrong time, the newspaper said.

The army has publicly acknowledged the two deaths and announced in October that up to 28 US soldiers face possible charges in connection with what were ruled homicides.

In December, Pentagon officials confirmed that eight deaths of detainees in Afghanistan have been investigated since mid-2002. Hundreds of people were detained during and after the campaign by US-led forces to oust the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001. (AP)

Comments