HR groups concerned about secret jails in Afghanistan
Human rights groups, already alarmed by stories of prisoner abuse in American-run facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, have now raised concerns about the number of secret jails, particularly in Afghanistan. New York-based Human Rights First claims there are seven undisclosed centres in Afghanistan, including a CIA interrogation facility in the capital, Kabul, known as ‘The Pit’.
In a report released this week, it said the United States was holding suspects in the war on terror in more than two dozen prisons around the world, with the biggest number of secret prisons in Afghanistan.
Secrecy surrounding the jails made “inappropriate detention and abuse not only likely, but inevitable”, the group said. The US military has confirmed the existence of only two detention facilities in Afghanistan — Bagram Collection Point at the main US airbase north of Kabul and “one transitional collection point” in southern Kandahar.. “We also have about 18 transit holding sites,” a spokeswoman for the US-led coalition Master Sergeant Cindy Beam said.
The US has refused to confirm or deny the report on secret detention cells.
“We don’t talk about where each holding site is because it gives our enemy too much information about where we are and what we’re doing,” Beam said. But security sources have confirmed to AFP that the secret prisons exist here.
They said some detainees, suspected members of the Al Qaeda network, have been held in these secret jails since the fall of the Taliban regime more than two years ago. The Central Intelligence Agency, in collaboration with the Afghan secret service, runs at least five clandestine jails in Kabul, western and Afghan sources told.
Managed on a daily basis by members of the Afghan National Directorate of Security, these cells hold about 20 foreigners believed to be involved with Al Qaeda, sources say. Most are Arabs from the Middle East and North Africa.
American personnel working in these centres don’t wear military uniforms, preferring for the most part traditional Afghan dress and driving around in unmarked vehicles. The prisoners are held outside any legal framework and are regularly moved from one prison to another.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which visits prisoners at Bagram and has recently been given access to Kandahar, says it is concerned by the unknown number of people detained “in secret places” by American forces, a spokesman told AFP.
“We are more and more concerned about the lot of the unknown number of people captured in the context of what we would call ‘the war against terror’ and detained in secret places,” Erof Bosisio said from Geneva. “We have asked for information on these people and access to them. Until now we have received no response from the Americans,” Bosisio said. Commissioner with Afghanistan’s foremost rights group, Ahmad Nader Nadery, has called for a “transparent” detention system and the release of information on all centres and prisoners.
Whether the prisons are secret or openly discussed makes no difference as far as the detainee is concern, according to Nadery’s Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Some 2,000 prisoners have been detained in Afghanistan since the early days of the war on terror. Many have been released or forwarded to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while about 390 remain in custody here. Nadery’s commission has registered three complaints of prison abuse while the US military is investigating two. One complaint involves a former police officer who says he was beaten, deprived of sleep and humiliated while held captive in 2003.
The US is conducting five other inquiries into the deaths of Afghans, including at least three in custody. Two of these deaths, which occurred at Bagram in December 2002, were the result of “blunt-force injuries”. Meanwhile, a review into US prisons here is due to be completed within days. afp