Two-Thirds of Boys in Afghan Jails Are Brutalised, Study Finds

By Gareth Porter

March 30, 2010

Nearly two of every three male juveniles arrested in Afghanistan are physically abused, according to a study based on interviews with 40 percent of all those now incarcerated in the country’s juvenile justice system.

The study, carried out by U.S. defence attorney Kimberly Motley for the international children’s rights organisation Terre des Hommes, reveals a justice system that subjects juveniles, many of whom are already innocent victims, to torture, forced confessions and blatant violation of their rights in court.

Motley, who may be the only practicing Western defence attorney in Afghanistan, told IPS that the study shows the need for alternatives to introducing juveniles into what she calls the “injustice system”.

The author personally interviewed 250 of the 600 juveniles in jails and rehabilitation centres across the country, including half the 80 girls and 40 percent of the 520 boys, as well as 98 professionals working in the system.

Although only two of the girls interviewed reported being beaten by police, 130 out of the 208 boys under the age of 18 interviewed said they had been beaten. The interviews were carried out by Motley in 28 provinces from September through December 2009.

Those statistics parallel the findings of a study published by the U.N. Children’s Fund and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in 2008, which found that 55 percent of boys and 11 percent of girls reported having been beaten upon their arrest.

Virtually all the male juveniles said the police beatings were aimed at forcing them to sign a confession. They said they had signed either while being beaten or threatened with being beaten, and that the confessions were then used to convict them.

The testimony of the juveniles themselves on brutalisation by police was consistent with Motley’s interviews with juvenile court judges. Forty-four percent of the judges interviewed indicated that juveniles complained routinely about torture and physical abuse by police officers. Another 33 percent refused to answer when asked whether they had heard such complaints.

Many of the boys interviewed by Motley reported that they been beaten by several police simultaneously. In one case, a 17-year-old said he was “kicked liked an animal” by six or seven policemen after his arrest.

One juvenile charged with putting up signs around the city threatening terrorist acts told Motley that he signed a confession only after having been subjected to electric shock and hung from the ceiling by the National Security Police. The torture continued for more than two months, according to the boy.

The prosecutor in the case admitted to Motley that she had not only been aware of the accusations of torture but had seen marks on the boy’s body indicating that the confessions had indeed been obtained under torture.

The prosecutor further acknowledged that no witnesses or other evidence had been presented in support of the charges against the boy.

The judge in the case told Motley that when asked in court why the case had not been dismissed as required by Afghan law, the prosecutors admitted that it was because they were afraid of the National Security Police and felt they had no choice.

In addition to the male juveniles who had signed coerced confessions by their thumbprint, 24 percent of all the male and female juveniles interviewed told Motley they had signed confessions prepared by police without realising it until they had gone to court. In some cases, they were tricked into signing a blank sheet of paper which was then used for the confession.

Almost half the children brought before a court in Afghanistan are also denied the right to speak in their defence, according to Motley’s study. Forty-seven percent of those interviewed, including 62 percent of those in the western region, were not allowed to testify on their own behalf.

One of the male juveniles denied the right to testify in court was a boy charged with pederasty, or sexual relations between an adult male and a child. As is often the case, he was the victim of rape, after having been kidnapped by three adults, all of whom were released and never charged.

When the boy tried to explain in court that he was raped, however, he was told by the judge not to speak or even look at her, Motley recounts. The attorney for the child “barely spoke out for him,” and he was sentenced to five years in jail.

Motley also found, however, that 71 percent of the judges surveyed expressed the view that, if a juvenile remains silent in court when asked questions by a judge, they must be guilty.

Mohammad Ibrahim Hassan, a human rights activist in Afghanistan for two decades, told IPS the bias against presumption of innocence is deeply imbedded in Afghan culture. “A majority of the people in Afghanistan are against the presumption of innocence,” he said in a recent interview in Kabul.

In the Afghan justice system, he observed, “When they arrest somebody, they think you have to expect the worst punishment.”

A recent visit to the Kabul juvenile rehabilitation centre, on which this reporter was accompanied by Motley, further confirmed the prevalence of brutalisation of juvenile males by police.

In one the centre’s male dormitory rooms, which was chosen at random, the 10 juveniles present were asked through an interpreter how many had been beaten by police after their arrest.

Half of the boys raised their hands. One recalled having been subjected to electric shock in order to get him to sign a confession. “They put the cables on my toes and fingers,” he said, “and they turned on the electricity many times for a few seconds.”

He agreed to sign, and the police handed him a piece of paper on which to put his thumbprint.

Describing his treatment at the hands of the police, another boy said, “They would ask us, ‘have you committed this crime?’, and if we said no, they would beat us.”

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006

Source

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

By Paul Koring

March 12, 2010

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.

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 – 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. The report, which covers 2009, also noted that the Afghan government was making efforts to improve conditions in prisons.

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.

******

TORTURE, RAPE, CHILD ABUSE COMMON

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.” Source
NATO and the US have done a bang up job now haven’t they?
Life is worse for Afghans now then before the war. They also have a Heroin addiction problem as well. Even children get addicted to Heroin.
Poverty is up. Unemployment is up. Many have died and been maimed.
This all compliment of the the US and NATO.
Everywhere they go they leave behind a trail of death and horror.
They call the people defending their countries terrorists.
One has to think about who the real terrorists are.
To defend your homeland ans those in Iraq and Afghanistan did is not being a terrorist.
The invaders are the real Terrorist. The invader brings with them torture and mass murder.
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