Afghanistan detainee abuse scandal
|This article is part of SourceWatch
coverage of Abu Ghraib
Information regarding an Afghanistan detainee abuse scandal appears to be reaching sufficient critical mass for it to join that regarding allegations of acts of brutality, abuse, and torture at Enemy Prisoner of War Camps in Iraq at Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca, among other possible locations.
In Human Rights Watch's May 13, 2004, Open Files on Detainees Deaths: U.S.: Systemic Abuse of Afghan Prisoners, HRW writes that "Mistreatment of prisoners by U.S. military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan is a systemic problem and not limited to a few isolated cases."
"Human Rights Watch called on the United States to immediately release the results of past investigations into misconduct by U.S. personnel in Afghanistan, including information about two Afghan detainees who were killed in U.S. custody in December 2002 and another detainee who died in June 2003. 
"'Afghans have been telling us for well over a year about mistreatment in U.S. custody,' said John Sifton, Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch. 'We warned U.S. officials repeatedly about these problems in 2003 and 2004. It's time now for the United States to publicize the results of its investigations of abuse, fully prosecute those responsible, and provide access to independent monitors.'" 
"In a March 2004, report "Enduring Freedom": Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch documented numerous cases of mistreatment of detainees at various detention sites in Afghanistan, including extreme sleep deprivation, exposure to freezing temperatures, and severe beatings. Detainees complained about being stripped of their clothing and photographed while naked. Some of these abusive practices during interrogation were similar to those recently reported in Iraq. Recent media reports have also documented new cases of mistreatment in Afghanistan.  "The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)--an autonomous institution within the Afghan government--has also received numerous complaints about abuses by U.S. troops in 2003 and 2004 at its local offices in south and eastern Afghanistan, where U.S. military operations occur regularly. The commission repeatedly raised concerns about abuses with U.S. officials in 2003 and 2004, as did local government representatives and officials with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan."  "On May 10, the AIHRC formally requested access to U.S. detention sites in Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch has also made several formal requests to visit U.S. detention sites in Afghanistan through 2003 and 2004, none of which received any response. Human Rights Watch made a request to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on May 6, 2004 asking for access to all detention sites maintained by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other undisclosed locations.  "'The United States has shown that it can't police its own prisons,' Sifton said. 'Human rights monitoring groups should be given access to all detention facilities in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.'  "Human Rights Watch said that the United States has still not provided any adequate explanation for the three detainee deaths that took place in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003. The first two deaths, which took place in December 2002, were specifically ruled homicides by U.S. military pathologists. (See "Deaths in U.S. Custody".) 
"Military officials in the Army Criminal Investigative Division told Human Rights Watch in late 2003 and early 2004 that investigations into the two homicides were 'ongoing.' But in April, Human Rights Watch received credible information that preliminary results of a military investigation into the two deaths were in fact completed in early 2003, and that some disciplinary actions were taken against U.S. personnel, although no prosecutions were initiated. U.S. military officials have repeatedly refused to explain to Human Rights Watch the circumstances of the third detainee death, which took place in Asadabad, in eastern Afghanistan, in June 2003.  "In March of this year, Human Rights Watch again called on the United States to release the results of its investigations into the three deaths. These requests were ignored.  "'We've basically been stonewalled,' said Sifton. 'It's been well over a year since the two detainees were killed in Afghanistan, and U.S. officials are still supposedly investigating. It's time for them to tell the public what happened.'  "Testimonies taken by Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan show that many detainees were beaten during the initial stages of detention. Detainees who were held in Kandahar airport in early 2002 reported being stripped naked, kicked and punched, and forced to endure freezing temperatures.  "U.S. officials have told journalists and Human Rights Watch that U.S military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan employ an interrogation system that includes the use of sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and forcing detainees to sit or stand in painful positions for extended periods of time. ... 'We know now that abuse of detainees was an established part of the interrogation process,' said Sifton." 
- Mike Dorning reports in the May 22, 2004, issue of the Chicago Tribune that the Army disclosed on Friday, May 21st, "that it has investigated the deaths of at least 37 people in Iraq and Afghanistan who died while in custody of U.S. forces since August 2002. 
- "Death certificates also released Friday listed blunt force injuries or suffocation, sometimes in combination, as the cause of death for eight of the detainees--raising the possibility that some prisoners may have died due to beatings or other mistreatment." 
David Sirota, Christy Harvey and Judd Legum wrote in the May 7, 2004, "Hard to Say You're Sorry" published by The Progress Report:
- "One thing to keep in mind: At the end of the day, ultimate responsibility lies with the Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush. ...
- "No, I don't think for an instant that Bush knew anything about this [at Abu Ghraib]. That's the problem. Reports of prisoner abuse have been around since the war in Afghanistan and the opening of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The president needs to explain why he wasn't more curious about what was happening, and whether his management style delegates so much authority that the White House could be caught so unprepared for this catastrophe."
- Convoy of Death, produced and directed by award-winning Irish filmmaker Jamie Doran, the film provides eyewitness testimony that U.S. troops were complicit in the massacre of thousands of Taliban prisoners during the Afghan War.