Afghanistan making progress reducing detainee torture: UN

Afghanistan making progress reducing detainee torture: UN
Afghan policemen perform a drill during exercises at a police training centre in Herat on January 27, 2015. The conflict against the Taliban still rages across Afghanistan, and an estimated 17,000 foreign soldiers will stay on to assist the local police and army, who face a major challenge as the international military presence declines.

KABUL - The Afghan government is making progress in reducing the torture of conflict detainees, the UN said Wednesday, though more than a third still suffer mistreatment.

In a new report, the UN said there was credible evidence that 35 per cent of detainees they interviewed between February 2013 and December 2014 had suffered ill-treatment while in the custody of Afghan security forces.

This marks a fall from the UN's last report on torture, which found that 49 per cent of detainees were mistreated.

The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Nicholas Haysom welcomed the progress and urged the new government of President Ashraf Ghani to make good on its commitment to end torture.

"The government of Afghanistan's efforts to prevent torture and ill-treatment have shown some progress over the last two years," Haysom said.

"UNAMA welcomes the incoming government's commitment to implement a new national plan on elimination of torture."

The report highlights ill-treatment and torture during arrest and interrogation in numerous centres run by the National Directorate of Security -- the Afghan intelligence agency -- as well as the national police, local police and the army.

Detainees, mostly alleged members of the Taliban and other militant groups, were subjected to 16 torture techniques aimed at forcing them to confess, the report said.

These included severe beatings with pipes, cables and sticks, electric shocks and near-asphyxiation, it said.

The report found that 44 out of 105 child detainees, or 42 per cent of those they interviewed, were mistreated -- down from 73 per cent in the last report.

After the last report, published in 2013, the president at the time Hamid Karzai issued a decree aimed at stopping torture.

The UN said this had helped improve the situation, with more inspections of detention centres and training in alternative interrogation techniques.

But the new report said there was still a lack of accountability, with only one prosecution brought for torture since 2010.

"UNAMA's finding that torture of conflict-related detainees persists, in spite of government efforts over 2013-14 to address it, is a source of serious concern," said UNAMA Human Rights Director, Georgette Gagnon.

Apart from torture, UNAMA said there was also evidence of the disappearance of 26 detainees held by the national police as well as extrajudicial killings by security forces.

The UN said the report was based on interviews with 790 conflict detainees between February 2013 and December 2014, as well as security, police and judicial officials, and analysis of documentary, medical and other information.

The US-led NATO mission ended combat operations in Afghanistan in December, leaving only a residual force to train local troops and conduct counter-terror operations.

This has left Afghan forces to deal with the resilient insurgency, and the handover coincided with a sharp rise in civilian casualties, the UN reported last week.

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