Torture and rape in ‘new’ Afghanistan

These two videos from the USA say about themselves:

7 October 2009

Speech given at National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance rally

As the U.S. led war in Afghanistan begins its ninth year this week, 61 were arrested bringing a strong message to the White House that war, torture and drone bombing are outrageous, unacceptable and must end immediately. National anti-war groups and people from around the country joined together to say No to War in Afghanistan. No to Torture and Vengeance.

Bush administration’s torture policies.

Hundreds of people gathered in McPherson Square for song, poetry and rousing speeches to kick off a day of action. This is the reflection that Liz McAlister gave to those gathered, who would soon be processing to the White House led by the Mourn the dead, heal the wounded, end the wars banner. Those gathered then marched to the White House in a solemn procession, carrying large photographs of war victims, signs and banners. …

Members of Witness Against Torture, a group committed to the shuttering of Guantanamo and the quickly enlarging Bagram air base in Afghanistan … chained themselves to the fence.

From the Globe and Mail in Canada:

U.S. report offers damning picture of human rights abuses in Afghanistan

Conditions are horrific, torture is common and police frequently rape female detainees, the U.S. State Department finds

Paul Koring

WASHINGTON — From Friday’s Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Mar. 12, 2010 3:51AM EST Last updated on Friday, Mar. 12, 2010 3:52AM EST

Afghan prison conditions are horrific, torture is common and police frequently rape female detainees, the U.S. State Department finds in its annual survey of human rights.

The damning report paints a grim picture of scant respect for human rights by the embattled regime headed by President Hamid Karzai. While Taliban treatment of civilians is even worse, the report’s assessment of vile prison conditions and routine abuse and torture by Afghan police and security raises new questions about whether Canada and other nations are still transferring prisoners to known torturers. Doing so is a war crime under international law.

“Torture was commonplace among the majority of law enforcement institutions, especially the police,” the U.S. report found, citing the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the group used by Ottawa to help monitor whether detainees transferred by Canadian troops are abused or tortured.

There are serious questions about how really “independent” that Commission is, as it stands accused of not insisting too much on facts if those are too painful for the Karzai government and/or Western armed forces. However, sometimes there are so many facts that even a rather uncritical commission has to record at least some of them.

Canadian diplomats compile a similar annual report on selected countries – including Afghanistan – but it isn’t made public. Government censors blacked out all references to torture, abuse and extrajudicial killings by Afghan police and prison guards in the last available report obtained under Access to Information.

Yesterday’s U.S. report makes no similar attempt to shield allies from human rights scrutiny, even in places where U.S. troops are deployed.

Michael Posner, the U.S. undersecretary of state for human rights and democracy whose group prepared the mammoth report – generally considered the most authoritative annual assessment of conditions in more than 190 countries –

Well, some people see it as too uncritical of the United States itself and its allies, contrary to its views on governments which have conflicts with the United States government.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has turned the tables on Washington and threatened to release a report on human rights abuses in the US in response to State Department criticism of Latin American governments.

said the issue of foreign troops being ordered by their governments to hand detainees to Afghan security forces was vexed.

“How can United States and NATO countries ensure or guarantee safe treatment or fair process when those transfers occur. … Those are issues very much on our minds,” Mr. Posner said.

The U.S. runs a prison facility at Bagram where more than 600 battlefield detainees are held. Some of them have been there for six years. But Canada, Britain, the Netherlands and other NATO countries with troops fighting in southern Afghanistan turn prisoners over to Afghan police and the Afghan internal security service (National Directorate of Security), usually within 96 hours. For years, no follow-up inspections were made to ensure transferred prisoners weren’t tortured or killed, but after publication of harrowing accounts of abuse, Ottawa added sporadic inspections.

Most Canadian detainees are turned over to the feared NDS. The U.S. report said it was impossible to determine how many prisons the NDS operates, or how many prisoners they contain. …

Other countries where human rights abuses are identified include Iran and China.

Canada generally got good marks but the Harper government‘s long-running effort to keep a Canadian citizen from returning home was cited. “In July the government complied with an order of the Federal Court of Canada and facilitated the return to Canada of Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian-Sudanese dual national, after the Court determined that Canadian officials had been complicit in his detention in Sudan in 2003,” the report said.



Excerpts from the Afghanistan sections of the U.S. government’s latest human rights report:

* Afghan police and security “tortured and abused detainees. Torture and abuse methods included, but were not limited to, beating by stick, scorching bar, or iron bar; flogging by cable; battering by rod; electric shock; deprivation of sleep, water, and food; abusive language; sexual humiliation; and rape.”
* Afghan “police frequently raped female detainees and prisoners.”
* “Harems of young boys were cloistered for ‘bacha baazi‘ (boy-play) for sexual and social entertainment …”
* “Child abuse was endemic throughout the country, based on cultural beliefs about child-rearing, and included general neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, and confined forced labor to pay off family debts.”
* “Human rights problems included extrajudicial killings, torture, poor prison conditions, official impunity, prolonged pretrial detention, restrictions on freedom of the press, restrictions on freedom of religion, violence and societal discrimination against women, restrictions on religious conversions, abuses against minorities, sexual abuse of children, trafficking in persons, abuse of worker rights, the use of child soldiers in armed conflict, and child labor.”

Britain: Eight years of war and occupation in the name of liberation have done nothing to protect women in Afghanistan from violence and poverty, delegates to the TUC women’s conference have said: here.

The Labour government is fighting in the courts to stop its complicity in torture coming to light. Simon Basketter looks at the shattering evidence of Britain’s involvement in torture around the world: here.

17 thoughts on “Torture and rape in ‘new’ Afghanistan

  1. [This article claims that “MSF never works alongside, or partners with, any military strategy.” Reality is more complex than that. During the 1999 Yugoslavia war, the Greek branch of Doctors Without Borders-MSF went to Kosovo, helping people of all ethnic groups. That did not fit in with NATO military strategy. MSF then expelled its Greek branch. However, the lesson of the article here below is that NATO and other big powers sometimes may go so far that even certainly not anti-imperialist organizations like MSF sometimes cannot go along. See also MSF on Haiti; and the Afghanistan Independent [?] Human Rights Commission in the article above this]


    NATO Statement Endangers Patients In Afghanistan

    Main Category: Aid / Disasters

    Article Date: 12 Mar 2010 – 4:00 PST

    The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today strongly objected to a recent statement by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in which he implied that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) should be the “soft power” component to military strategy.

    In conflict areas, MSF never works alongside, or partners with, any military strategy. The organization’s complete independence and neutrality is what helps negotiate access to populations in need of emergency medical assistance.

    The NATO statement creates additional risks to patients and staff by suggesting that medical work is part of a military strategy.

    In a December 2009 speech to NATO, Dr. Christophe Fournier, MSF international president, highlighted the importance of distinguishing between the agendas and objectives of the parties involved in the conflict in Afghanistan and those of a medical humanitarian organization like MSF.

    Read the speech here.

    When MSF returned to Afghanistan in 2009, as the conflict escalated, it was with the objective to provide immediate and accessible health care to people trapped in conflict zones. To reach that objective, MSF has negotiated with all warring parties-Afghan and International security forces and opposition groups alike-to keep weapons out of the hospital compounds where MSF is working in Kabul and Lashkargah. Only then do people in need of medical assistance feel secure enough to enter the health facilities, as the absence of all military presence means that the structures will not be attacked by either side.

    The suggestion by Mr. Rasmussen that civilian organizations such as MSF should in any way collaborate, or provide ‘soft power’ to NATO forces, endangers this understanding and makes hospitals, patients, and staff more likely to be targeted by opposition forces.

    Mr. Rasmussen suggests that Afghanistan should be the ‘proto-type’ for engagement between NATO and NGOs. MSF calls on Mr. Rasmussen, as well as all other parties involved in the conflict, to respect the necessary distinction between political and military objectives and independent medical humanitarian assistance.

    A report by MSF expanding on the importance of independent and impartial assistance in Afghanistan is also available.

    Read the report here.

    Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières


  2. Torture in Afghanistan common, U.S. report says

    State Department findings freely posted on website while Tories refuse to release Canadian documents

    Published On Fri Mar 12 2010

    Richard J. Brennan Ottawa Bureau

    OTTAWA–Torture and other serious abuses remain commonplace in Afghanistan prisons, says the U.S. State Department’s 2009 report on Afghan human rights.

    “Human rights organizations report local authorities tortured and abused detainees. Torture and abuse methods included … beating by stick, scorching bar or iron bar, flogging by cable, battering by rod, electric shock, deprivation of sleep, water and food, abusive language, sexual humiliation and rape,” says the report released Thursday.

    The 25-page report, available on the department’s website, comes at a time when the Canadian government is refusing to release documents that opposition critics say may shed light on how much Canadian officials knew between 2005-07 of allegations of torture and abuse of prisoners they handed over to Afghan officials.

    Conservative cabinet ministers, government officials and military brass have argued there were no credible allegations of torture, despite information such as current and previous reports from the U.S. State Department.

    NDP defence critic MP Jack Harris said it was sad to think the U.S. government openly provides information on torture while the federal government refuses to even release independent human rights reports, citing confidentiality.

    “They should be public documents just the like the Americans’ are …,” Harris said.

    Stuart Hendin, a University of Ottawa expert on armed conflict and human rights law, said the U.S. report is clear that Afghan detention centres are fraught with problems, “and it is difficult to comprehend why the U.S. State Department can make that finding and somehow our military leadership seems to take the position there were no problems.”

    The Conservatives have appointed retired Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci to vet secret documents to determine what can be released, but the government is defying a Commons order to turn them over in the meantime.–torture-in-afghanistan-common-u-s-report-says


  3. From the UK Parliament:

    Early Day Motion
    EDM 1075


    Rennie, Willie

    That this House condemns the decision by the Government to prevent British broadcasters and national newspapers from embedding reporters with military units in Afghanistan once the general election has been called; expresses dismay that the decision will effectively prevent journalists from reporting from the front line; notes with concern that Ministry of Defence websites will be prevented from publishing any non-factual material, including troops’ opinions of the war or their success against the Taliban; further notes with concern that senior officers will also be forbidden from giving speeches or interviews; and calls on the Government to reverse its decision to limit journalistic access to the war in Afghanistan and allow for full and free reporting of the conflict.


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