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Even Stones Confess Here

2011 October 11

“You should confess – even stones confess here!”

A disturbing new U.N. study reports widespread torture of prisoners by the Afghan National Directorate of Intelligence, as well as its national police. The abuse of detainees included beatings with cables, stress positions including suspension by their hands, electric shocks, beatings with cables, removal of toenails, and threatened sexual assault. Prisoners were also reported to have been denied access to medical care. According to New York Times reporter Alissa J. Rubin:

“The report, based on interviews over the past year with more than 300 suspects linked to the insurgency…paints a devastating picture of abuse, citing evidence of “systematic torture” during interrogations by Afghan intelligence and police officials even as American and other Western backers provide training and pay for nearly the entire budget of the Afghan ministries running the detention centers.
            “The report does not assess whether American officials knew of the abuses. But such widespread use of torture in a detention system supported by American mentors and money raises serious questions about potential complicity of American officials and whether they benefited from information obtained from suspects who had been tortured.” 

The Guardian (UK) said the report “is not just an indictment of Nato-backed security forces. It also represents a giant question mark over the workability of the west’s strategy in Afghanistan.” The paper called it “part of a wider picture of excess and abuse…that is fueling the insurgency.”
            Researchers for the United Nation Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) looked at 47 prisons and other detention facilities in 22 provinces, and interviewed 324 detainees. According to the U.N.’s summary of the report, those tortured included children under the age of eighteen. One detainee interrogated in Kandahar was told, “You should confess what you have done in the past as Taliban – even stones confess here.”
            Nineteen of those who were tortured had been handed over to the Afghan intelligence service or police by international military forces (presumably mostly American). As the Times article points out, “the United Nations Convention Against Torture prohibits the transfer of a detained person to the custody of another state where there are substantial grounds for believing the detainee is at risk of torture. (Read the full UNAMA report here.)


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