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Afghanistan Announces Program To Address Detainee Torture

File photo of prisoners exercising around a garden at a facility of the National Directorate of Security, where would-be suicide bombers are held in Kabul.

The Afghan government has announced a new initiative to tackle the abuse and torture of detainees.

A statement by the presidential palace on February 25 said that "any torture and ill-treatment of detainees stands contrary to the country’s constitution, all applicable laws as well as the policy of the government of Afghanistan."

The statement follows a UN report that said more than one-third of Afghans detained on allegations related to the conflict in the nation reported they were tortured or mistreated.

Kabul said the program will be implemented with the help of civil society organizations and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. The statement, however, did not give details of the initiative.

In a report released on February 25, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said 278 detainees out of 790 interviewed said they had been tortured or mistreated between February 2013 and December 2014.

This marks a fall from the previous period, during which nearly half of all detainees said they were mistreated.

The torture methods used to obtain information and confessions included severe beatings, suspension from walls or ceilings, electric shocks and near-asphyxiation.

The report said a "persistent lack of accountability" for the use of such methods allows torture to continue.

Afghanistan's intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), disputed the findings of the report and questioned some of the incidents of abuse documented therein.

"UNAMA relied on interviews with detainees without the presence of a third party and without verifying their claims or producing documents backing their assertions," an NDS document sent to journalists on February 25 read. "We know that most of the detainees were terrorists, many of whom were fighting against Afghanistan."

The presidential statement, however, noted that UNAMA has recorded a 14 percent drop in detainee abuse cases compared with the previous observation period.

"Despite the positive change, the government of Afghanistan does not see it as enough and remains strongly committed to the complete elimination of any ill-treatment and torture at its detention centers," the statement added.

Based on Afghan government statements and reporting by DPA, AP and AFP