Sunday, May 22, 2005

U.N. condemns reported U.S. abuse in Afghanistan

Yahoo! News
U.N. condemns reported U.S. abuse in Afghanistan

By Robert Birsel
Sun May 22, 4:34 AM ET

A report of U.S. military abuse of detainees in Afghanistan is deeply disturbing and those involved should be punished, the United Nations said on Sunday.

The abuse, including details of the deaths of two inmates at an Afghan detention center, took place in 2002 and emerged from a nearly 2,000-page file of U.S. Army investigators, The New York Times said on Friday.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, speaking before leaving on a U.S. trip, said on Saturday he was shocked and was demanding action against the culprits as well as custody of Afghan prisoners and supervision of U.S. military searches.

Jean Arnault, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general in Afghanistan, said the abuse reported in the New York Times was unacceptable and an affront to everything the international community stood for.

"The gravity of these abuses calls for the punishment of all those involved in such inexcusable crimes, as demanded by President Karzai," Arnault said in a statement.

Arnault said steps taken since 2002 to eradicate mistreatment and improve conditions should be made public. Complaints that continue to be made of arbitrary arrest and detention without charge should be fully addressed, he said.

The United States commands a foreign force in Afghanistan of about 18,300, most of them American, fighting Taliban insurgents and hunting militant leaders, including Osama bin Laden.

The United States is holding more than 500 prisoners from its war on terrorism at the Guantanamo Bay naval base on Cuba. Many of them were detained in Afghanistan after the Taliban overthrow in late 2001.

U.S. forces are also believed to be holding several hundred Afghans in Afghanistan.


The New York Times said U.S. army report centers on the death of a 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar and that of another detainee, Habibullah, who died at the U.S. base at Bagram, north of Kabul, in December 2002.

According to the report, Dilawar was chained by his wrists to the top of his cell for several days before he died and his legs had been pummeled by guards.

"The file depicts young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse. The harsh treatment, which has resulted in criminal charges against seven soldiers, went well beyond the two deaths," the newspaper said.

In sworn statements to army investigators, soldiers described mistreatment ranging from a female interrogator stepping on a detainee's neck and kicking another in the genitals to a shackled prisoner being made to kiss the boots of interrogators, according to the newspaper.

U.S. officials have characterized incidents of prisoner abuse at Bagram in 2002 as isolated problems that were thoroughly investigated, the newspaper said.

Two army interrogators have been reprimanded and seven soldiers have been charged, it said.