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Better, But Still Bad: UNAMA releases new report on the torture of security detainees

Alleged Taleban militants being introduced to the media in Jalalabad on 20 December 2016. UNAMA has reported that a few third of conflict-related detainees reported torture or ill-treatment in Afghanistan in 2017-2018. Photograph: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP

UNAMA has released its latest two-yearly report on the remedy of conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and finds perpetrators of torture in the Afghan National Security Forces are nonetheless having fun with immunity from punishment. General charges are down, especially in the Afghan intelligence company, the NDS, but the proportion of these detained giving credible accounts of torture continues to be virtually one third. UNAMA says the decline in the use of torture is just not but vital sufficient to “indicate that the remedial measures taken are sufficient.” AAN co-director Kate Clark studies that torture continues to be concentrated particularly amenities, with the worst culprits being the Kandahar police, NDS Particular Forces and the Khost Safety Drive.

UNAMA’s April 2019 report, “Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees in Afghanistan: Preventing Torture and Ill-treatment under the Anti-Torture Law” might be learn right here.

The statistics

Afghan Nationwide Security Forces (ANSF)

1 January 2017- 31 December 2018: 31.9 per cent or 197 out of 618 conflict-related detainees interviewed in 77 amenities in 28 provinces gave “credible and reliable accounts of having experienced torture and other forms of inhuman or degrading treatment.” 47 of the interviewees reported torture in multiple facility.

Comparison with final reporting interval (1 January 2015 to 31 December 2016): a reduction

  • 2015-2016: 39 per cent reported torture
  • 2017: 36.7 per cent reported torture
  • 2018: 27.1 per cent reported torture


25.1 per cent or 128 out of 510 detainees gave credible and dependable accounts of torture or different types of ill-treatment

Comparability with the last reporting interval: a discount

  • 2015-2016: 29 per cent reported torture
  • 2016: 31.four per cent reported torture
  • 2018: 19.4 per cent reported torture

Main enhancements in NDS Herat (48 per cent to 8.4 per cent) and NDS Kandahar (60 per cent to 7.4 per cent), though all seven interviewees held in Kandahar NDS district amenities in Daman, Shah Wali Kot and Spin Boldak district reported torture before transfer to Kandahar provincial NDS.

NDS Directorate 241 (Counter-Terrorism)

39 per cent of detainees gave credible and reliable stories of torture or ill-treatment

Comparison with the last reporting interval: slight discount general; massive discount in 2018

  • 2015-2016: 44 per cent reported torture
  • 2017: 60 per cent reported torture
  • 2018: 18.75 per cent reported torture

Kabul NDS

40.7 per cent, or 11 out of 27 detainees gave credible and dependable reviews of torture or ill-treatment

Consists of Kabul provincial and district NDS and NDS particular forces; excludes Directorates 241 (Counter-Terrorism) and 501 (Investigations) (1)

NDS 03 Special Drive (Kandahar)

7 per cent, or 17 out of 45 detainees interviewed gave credible and reliable accounts of having been tortured or ill-treated

Khost Safety Drive (KPF)

3 per cent, or 4 out of 23 detainees held in the KPF detention facility in Khost gave credible and dependable accounts of torture and ill-treatment. Two others stated they have been tortured or ill-treated in a KPF facility in Sabari and Tere Zayi districts. (NB All allegations are from 2018.)

Afghan National Police (ANP)

31.2 per cent, or 54 of 179 detainees gave credible accounts of torture or different varieties of ill-treatment

15 alleged torture in multiple facility

Comparison with the final reporting interval: reduction, but no decline in 2018 in comparison with 2017

  • 2015-2016: 45 per cent reported torture
  • 2017: 29.5 per cent reported torture
  • 2018: 31 per cent reported torture

ANP Kandahar

77 per cent or 17 out of 22 detainees gave credible and dependable accounts of having experienced torture or ill-treatment;

Nine reported torture or ill-treatment in two or extra ANP amenities;

Torture was also reported in sure provinces by Afghan Nationwide Military (ANA) and Afghan Local Police (ALP) personnel, however not in statistically-reliable ways. (2)

Juveniles (beneath 18s)

43.9 per cent, or 36 out of 82 juvenile detainees held by the ANSF gave credible and dependable accounts of having been tortured or ill-treated

Reduction between 2017 (55 per cent) and 2018 (33.three per cent) (UNAMA didn’t give collated figures for juveniles for 2015-2016)

Higher, but still dangerous

General, UNAMA has found that the Afghan Nationwide Security Forces are torturing their fellow Afghans, detained as a result of of the battle, much less incessantly than they have been in 2015-2016. In lots of situations, the development in the direction of the lowered use of torture has carried on in 2018, compared to 2017. The discount is particularly notable in the NDS and particularly NDS amenities, particularly Herat and Kandahar. Even so, the prevalence of torture and ill-treatment, reported by virtually a 3rd of the security detainees interviewed – continues to be distressingly excessive. Particularly, the incidence of torture reported by those underneath 18 stays larger than that reported by adult security detainees, with more than 4 out of every ten juvenile detainees reporting torture or different ill-treatment.

As in all previous reporting, the use of torture was concentrated particularly amenities and places. The police in Kandahar are, as in 2015-2016, the most violent section of the ANSF to be detained by; in accordance with UN reporting, seven in each ten detainees held in Kandahar’s provincial and district police amenities who have been interviewed reporting having suffered torture, certainly the “most brutal forms of torture or ill-treatment.” Methods included:

systematic and multiple beatings, together with with cables and plastic pipes, on ft and other elements of the physique… suffocation (with water or plastic luggage); electric shocks; suspension from ceilings; numerous varieties of stress positions throughout extended period of occasions; and pulling of genitals… threats of demise and of sexual violence.

Additionally, as in previous years, UNAMA reported allegations in relation to the Kandahar police of disappearances and extrajudicial killings. UNAMA stated that 34 sources had “provided credible and reliable information on enforced disappearances of their relatives.” These accusations all date to 2017, however, stated UNAMA, more allegations made in 2018 and it “remains unaware of any concrete action taken by the authorities to investigate the widespread and, in some cases public allegations, that ANP has been complicit in acts of enforced disappearances.”

Still infamous, as properly, is NDS 241, the national Counter-Terrorism Directorate in Kabul. This facility has appeared in reporting on torture by each government since 1978 (it was beforehand numbered 124, 90 and 5 – for historic accounts, see the Afghanistan Justice Challenge report ). Strategies reported used comprised beating (together with with a pipe and on ft), threats and stress positions.

There has, nevertheless, been a marked decline in the incidence of reported torture in NDS 241 in the last yr, from 60 per cent in 2015-2016 to 18.75 per cent in 2018. Nevertheless, the excessive incidence of reported torture elsewhere in Kabul province (4 out of each ten detainees reporting torture or ill-treatment), together with by Kabul NDS special forces, might point to detainees being tortured elsewhere earlier than they arrive at NDS 241. Such ‘displacement’ of torture from a facility underneath attention to different amenities is a well-known pattern from previous years.

Different NDS amenities the place there have been excessive rates of torture reported have been Khost (18.4 per cent of detainees interviewed gave credible and reliable accounts of torture or ill-treatment; all reported the torture in 2018 and described beating, suspension from ceiling and threats as the primary methods) and Samangan (33.3% repeated torture or ill-treatment, involving beatings, including with sticks, pipes and iron rods, and mainly from 2017). (3)

UNAMA can also be involved that 33.three per cent of those interviewed in ANP Nangrahar offered credible and reliable accounts of torture or ill-treatment, with beating (including with pipes) and threats described as the foremost methods. Whereas still extraordinarily excessive, this can be a marked reduction from 2015-2016 (66.6 per cent of detainees reported torture) and notes that the majority of the allegations from the final reporting period associated to 2018.

There are also some ‘new-comers’ to UNAMA’s torture reporting. The Khost Safety Drive and the NDS Special Forces both seem for the first time, each for torture and ill-treatment and illegal and arbitrary detention, together with following mass arrests. These forces are believed to be supported by and work collectively with the CIA, and have a murky chain of command. The Khost Safety Drive can also be not a legal entity; underneath Afghan regulation, it has no authority to detain. As UNAMA, AAN, Human Rights Watch and the media, have all reported in current months, the Khost Safety Drive and NDS Particular Forces have also been accused of deliberately killing civilians, using drive indiscriminately and damaging civilian houses and property.

17.three per cent of those held by the Khost Protection Drive gave credible accounts of having been tortured or ill-treated, with beating as the foremost method. 37.7 per cent of detainees held by NDS 03 in Kandahar interviewed by UNAMA gave credible and reliable accounts of having been tortured or ill-treated, indicating, stated UNAMA “a regular and prevalent use of torture and ill-treatment.” It stated detainees described beatings, together with with a cable, with the majority additionally “separately and consistently” describing “a specific form of treatment as the main technique used – being covered by a blanket and [having a person sit] on their back while [they were] suffocated with a plastic bag.”

In the context of these forces’ wider and illegal use of violence, their unknown chains of command, their close worldwide backing and effective impunity all make

UNAMA’s reporting of their use of torture notably worrying.

Finally, while documenting no credible reviews of torture at the Ministry of Defence’s  Detention Facility at Parwan, UNAMA stated it was  concerned about

…the circumstances of detention observed inside the facility, including, overcrowding, the use of solitary confinement as the sole disciplinary measure, restrictions with regard to household visits and access to legal professionals, and insufficient lighting. In addition, throughout its interviews with detainees held in the facility, UNAMA acquired quite a few studies that the poor circumstances of detention and the lack of programmes and amenities for detainees contribute to widespread mental well being issues amongst the jail inhabitants.

What’s the Afghan authorities doing to scale back its use of torture?

In the previous couple of years, the Afghan government has taken a number of authorized anti-torture measures, together with:

  • Revised Penal Code (February 2018) with a definition of torture broadly in keeping with the United Nations Convention towards Torture
  • Accession to the Elective Protocol to the Conference towards Torture (April 2018) (4)
  • Enacted the Anti-Torture Regulation (October 2018)

But, torture had already been illegal in Afghanistan in a number of ways. (5) The problem has by no means been with the regulation, however its implementation, and making certain those utilizing, ordering and allowing torture get punished.

The motivation for taking these measures appeared fairly to be the have to convince the United Nations and others that the Afghan government was addressing the use of torture by its Afghan security providers. This was in the face of ‘twin threats’. The primary was Afghanistan’s appearance earlier than a committee of specialists underneath the auspices of the Convention towards Torture and different Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Remedy or Punishment on 25 and 26 April 2017 when the nation’s report came beneath public scrutiny. The second was the menace that the International Felony Courtroom (ICC) may launch an investigation into its use of torture. The government has been in search of to persuade the Courtroom that it was taking the concern of torture extremely critically and the Courtroom did not have to launch its own investigation into this specific warfare crime.

The UN Committee Towards Torture (which revealed its report on Afghanistan on 12 June 2017) welcomed the numerous legal and bureaucratic modifications made by the government, but castigated the “culture of impunity… as evidenced by a large number of cases of alleged human rights violations involving senior State officials.” It was “deeply concerned” about the Amnesty Regulation (2008), which prevents the prosecution of people liable for gross human rights violations, including acts of torture, dedicated earlier than December 2001 and any act committed since by a person who has reconciled with the authorities. It was additionally deeply involved that “perpetrators of war crimes and gross human rights violations, including acts of torture, are still holding, or have been nominated for, official executive positions, some of them in government.” Such a state of affairs, stated the Committee “fosters a general climate of impunity and contributes to creating widespread acceptance and legitimation of torture in Afghan society.” It pointed out that perpetrators are not often disciplined, let alone tried and singled out the Kandahar police pressure as particularly worrying. (6)

Persevering with impunity for torturers

Wanting via the UNAMA report, it is clear that impunity for torturers remains. The NDS, which has seen the greatest reductions in the use of torture over the final two years, has instituted a nationwide system of monitoring by NDS human rights officers and higher coaching of employees – UNAMA welcomed these initiatives, though noting that the monitoring is just not unbiased. NDS reported to UNAMA that in 2017 and as much as mid-October 2018, its human rights officers had interviewed greater than 15,000 suspects held in NDS detention centres and (over a slightly longer interval) had acquired 184 allegations of human rights violations from detainees. It reported 13 of these instances ‘confirmed’ and that they concerned 19 personnel of the central and provincial NDS amenities. Solely 5 have been referred to judicial establishments (with no details about what happened next). The remaining of the 19 have been dealt with by disciplinary measures – transfers, loss of rank, warning letters and so forth. Many of the 171 instances, stated UNAMA, have been dismissed because of lack of signs of torture. It remained concerned that the NDS

…principally continues to ‘resolve’ allegations of torture or ill-treatment by inner investigation procedures, with the outcomes often not disclosed to the sufferer, or in any other case made public. The overwhelming majority of the allegations – greater than 90 per cent – appears to be dismissed on the ground that the investigation did not discover enough proof for torture or ill-treatment on totally different grounds.

Each the Ministry of Inside, answerable for the ANP and ALP, and the Ministry of Defence, answerable for the ANA, have been much less forthcoming. The Ministry of Inside informed UNAMA that “in the last two years, no cases of torture and other types of mistreatments against prisoners kept in detention facilities under the authority of the Central Prison Directorate of the Ministry of Interior have been reported.” The Ministry of Defence only gave UNAMA info on the motion it was taking towards allegations of mistreatment of detainees at the Detention Facility in Parwan (described by UNAMA as “lenient”) and never in the bases the ANA has around the nation.

UNAMA does not seek to elucidate why the use of torture has fallen in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the discount in torture appears to be most consistent in NDS. Additionally it is the only department of Afghanistan’s security forces which has carried out a monitoring system. As UNAMA points out, the system shouldn’t be unbiased and has many flaws, but it might account for the common discount from excessive to much less excessive ranges in the NDS’ use of torture.

The opposite factor pushing the decreased use of torture might have been the menace of an ICC investigation. In that case, that menace now appears to be over. By probability, less than every week earlier than the publication of the UNAMA report came news that the judges of the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber had rejected the Chief Prosecutor’s request for an investigation into the ‘Afghanistan situation’. (7)

There’s nonetheless a clear mismatch between the prevalence of torture found by UNAMA – a third of conflict-related detainees giving credible studies of it – and what the numerous branches of the ANSF say their personnel are doing. As UNAMA says, there’s both a

… [c]ontinued lack of accountability for perpetrators, with investigations into allegations of torture and ill-treatment remaining inner and opaque, with very limited referrals to prosecution [and a] Lack of any meaningful risk of obtaining an effective judicial or administrative remedy for the violations that detainees declare to have skilled.

It has advisable some key modifications to help forestall torture, together with giving detainees access to legal professionals,  contact with family during the investigation and medical screening and ceasing to rely on pressured confessions in courtroom. “Prosecutions,” says UNAMA, “often remain dependent on confessions as opposed to other sources of evidence, creating a climate where torture is more likely to take place to obtain a confession.” Finally, while welcoming the reduction in the ANSF’s use of torture, UNAMA concludes: “The decline in the use of torture or ill-treatment is not yet significant enough to indicate that the remedial measures taken are sufficient.”

Edited by Sari Kouvo

In December 2014, AAN brought collectively its reporting on torture (by each Afghan and US forces), so far: “Thematic Dossier VII: Detentions in Afghanistan – Bagram, Transfer and Torture”. Since then, we’ve revealed a quantity of dispatches: “Afghanistan’s Record on Torture to Come under UN Scrutiny”, 21 April 2017  and “Torture as Prevalent as Ever: New UN report finds no end to impunity for Afghan torturers”, 24 April 2017 and, on the US aspect “Held Accountable for Torture: CIA psychologists compensate family of dead Afghan”, 29 August 2017 and “Kafka in Cuba The Afghan Experience in Guantánamo”, November 2016.

(1) In NDS Directorate 501, 61 detainees have been investigated and 5 reported torture or ill-treatment (4 in 2017).

(2) With both the Afghan Local Police and the Afghan National Military, UNAMA reported excessive percentages of detainees reporting torture, but that “the sample was too widely geographically dispersed to make any meaningful findings on patterns of treatment of detainees in any particular location.” 12 out of 33 detainees held by the ANA in Balkh, Herat, Helmand, Kabul, Kandahar, Kunduz, Laghman, Logar and Nangrahar had reported torture. Six out of nine detainees held by the ALP in Badakhshan, Balkh, Faryab, Kandahar, Jawzjan and Parwan had reported torture.

(3) UNAMA stated there have been also excessive percentages of detainees reporting torture in NDS amenities in Farah, Faryab, Helmand, Parwan and Sar-e Pul provinces, however UNAMA stated the sample measurement of these interviewed was statistically too small to attract significant conclusions. It acquired no claims accounts of torture in NDS amenities in Badakhshan, Bamyan, Ghor, Jawzjan and Paktia.

(4) The Non-compulsory Protocol to the Convention Towards Torture (CAT) permits for the institution of a system whereby “independent international and national bodies” can undertake regular visits “to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The federal government also determined to withdraw Afghanistan’s reservation to article 20 of CAT. This provides the CAT Committee permission to request investigations into torture if it “receives credible information which appears to it to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practised in the territory of a State Party.” Finally, on 18 April 2017, as ordered beneath the presidential decree, and as obliged by the Elective Protocol to CAT, the AIHRC-led Commission for the Prohibition of Torture was arrange.

(5) Instruments criminalising torture in Afghanistan embrace:

Penal Code 1976

If the public service official tortures the accused for the objective of obtaining a confession or points an order to this effect, he shall be sentenced to lengthy imprisonment.

7 October 1976; 15 Mizan 1355, Artwork 275

Structure of Afghanistan 2004

No one shall be allowed to order torture, even for locating the fact from another individual who’s beneath investigation, arrest, detention or has been convicted to be punished.

26 January 2004; 6 Dalwa 1382, Art 29

Presidential Decree No 129 To Implement The Afghan Reality-Discovering Delegation’s Ideas On The Presence Of Torture And Ailing-Remedy In Detention Centres

The Lawyer Common of the Authorities of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is ordered to prosecute those that violate article 51 of the Prisons and Detentions Regulation [3] in the mild of the findings of the delegation’s report which has reported on the torture and mistreatment of detainees and prisoners, this to be able to forestall torture and mistreatment and the conviction of any harmless detainee in the future.

Issued by Hamed Karzai, 16 February 2013; 28 Delwa 1391, Artwork 1

Felony Procedure Code 2014

… the judicial police officer, prosecutor and courtroom themselves or by means of means of one other individual, in any case, aren’t allowed to drive the suspect or accuse to admit using misconduct, narcotics, duress, torture, hypnosis, menace, intimidation, or promising a benefit. If the statements of the suspect or accused individual are taken in violation of the provision set forth in paragraph of this text, they shall not be admissible.

5 Might 2014; 28 Saur 1393, Artwork 22

Decree on the Prohibition of Torture which outlined torture for the first time in Afghan regulation:

…an act which causes ache or bodily or psychological struggling towards a suspect, an accused or a convict or another individual for the objective of forcing [the individual] to confess, give info or drive another individual to provide info or to drive an individual not to do an act. (art three)

5 March 2017; 15 Saur 1396

(6) The Committee of Specialists asked Afghanistan to answer its conclusions and proposals, especially on the “culture of impunity,” particularly, “to ensure that all candidates for official executive positions have not perpetrated any human rights violations and, if found responsible for past human rights violations, including torture, are not nominated”; coerced confessions, taking “appropriate remedial measures and ensur[ing] that all cases of coerced confession are promptly and impartially investigated, prosecuted and punished and; the death penalty, “[p]romptly consider[ing] taking measures for an immediate moratorium on executions and a commutation of sentences.”

Afghanistan’s response, which was made on 28 June 2017, may be learn right here.

(7) In the Chief Prosecutor’s Preliminary Examination, she had singled out alleged torture by Afghan government forces, and by the CIA and United States army, and a variety of conflict crimes allegedly dedicated by the Taleban. When the judges refused her request for an investigation, the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber stated they weren’t involved about lack of proof or that the alleged struggle crimes weren’t grave sufficient to benefit the Courtroom’s attention. Relatively, they cited a quite nebulous ‘interests of justice’ argument; finishing up an investigation leading to prosecutions can be troublesome, they argued, and would not meet “the objectives listed by the victims” who had (overwhelmingly) favoured an investigation. Many suspected the judges had bowed to strain and bullying by the US which had sought to block the investigation into its personal residents’ actions. See AAN reporting here.

Tagged with: Torture, UNAMA
Thematic Class: Rights & Freedoms