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U.S. Knew of Abuse in Afghan Prisons

2011 October 31

The United States Knew About Extensive
Torture in US-Funded Afghan Prison

“Across the street from U.S. military headquarters in Kabul, shrouded from view by concrete walls, the Afghan intelligence agency runs a detention facility…known as Department 124. So much torture took place inside, one detainee told the United Nations, that it has earned another name: ‘People call it Hell.’” And, despite denials, United States agencies and officials were well aware of what was going on there, according to yesterday’s Washington Post story by reporters Joshua Partlow and Julie Tate. 
            This situation was first revealed in a United Nations study which I commented on in a previous post, Even Stones Confess Here. At the time, denials by coalition forces that they were aware of the situation were widely accepted, at least by the domestic media. According to the Post story, however, “Long before the world body publicly revealed “systematic torture” in Afghan intelligence agency detention centers, top officials from the State Department, the CIA and the U.S. military received multiple warnings about abuses at Department 124 and other Afghan facilities, according to Afghan and Western officials with knowledge of the situation…Even as other countries stopped handing over detainees to problematic facilities, the U.S. government did not.”
           
According to the Post, the International Committee of the Red Cross had expressed concerns about Department 124 even before the U.N. report. As a matter of policy, the ICRC does not comment on its confidential meetings, but Partlow and Tate quote anonymous sources as saying that the Committee expressed “its concerns about detainee abuse.”

“In Afghanistan, the ICRC shared observations and recommendations with the detaining authorities and with others who were mentoring and training them,” said ICRC spokesman Simon Schorno. “It did so on numerous occasions during confidential, bilateral meetings.” Schorno said the “public silence of the ICRC on its visits should never be interpreted to mean that there are no prevailing concerns to be addressed by the authorities in charge.”

The Post reporters also quote “current and former Afghan intelligence officials” as saying that their CIA “partners were totally aware” of the abusive treatment of prisoners and, in fact, said that the UN report was “underestimating what’s going on.”

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