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UN Report Says Widespread Torture In Afghan Detention Centers

Nearly one in three of the Afghan detainees interviewed for the study said they had been subjected to torture or abuse during their incarceration. (file photo)

Nearly one-third of people detained on terror or security charges in Afghanistan are subject to torture or mistreatment in detention centers, according to a UN report.

The report, released on February 3 by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, paints a picture of widespread abuse and lack of basic legal safeguards in Afghan detention centers.

The report was based on interviews with more than 650 men, women, and children accused of terrorism-related or security offenses in dozens of facilities run by the Afghan police, army, and security agency over a 15-month period up to March 2020.

While there was a slight decrease in instances of reported torture in 2019-2020 from an earlier survey, the report said the situation in detention centers was "alarming."

In the southern province of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, nearly 60 percent of those interviewed reported torture or mistreatment.

Torture techniques included beatings, electric shock, and waterboarding.

Investigators were only able to question detainees in government facilities and not those of the Taliban or other militant groups due to lack of access.

The report found that those held in detention on terrorism-related or security offences were also deprived of basic legal rights, and safeguards that would protect them against torture or ill-treatment were rarely implemented.

For example, the report said "in almost no instance" were those held in detention informed of their rights or allowed access to a lawyer prior to questioning. Few received a medical examination or were able to contact their family in the early days of their detention.

Nearly half were asked to sign or place their thumbprint on a document without knowing its content, putting the entire prosecutorial process into doubt.

The report also noted enforced disappearances were of concern, particularly in Kandahar.

The U.S.-backed Afghan government is holding thousands of Taliban fighters in detention centers and jails, although about 5,000 were released last year ahead of intra-Afghan peace talks.

The Taliban continues to stage attacks on Afghan security forces despite calls for a cease-fire as the two sides pursue negotiations in Qatar as part of a fragile U.S.-Taliban deal aimed at ending conflict in the country.

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