Moral Low Ground


U.N. Report: “Systematic” Torture in Afghanistan

A new United Nations report details widespread and “systematic” torture committed by intelligence and security forces in Afghanistan.

According to the New York Times, Afghan intelligence agents and members of the Afghan National Police (ANP) engage in horrific tortures of detainees, most of them suspected insurgents, during interrogations. Prisoners have been hung by their hands and been beaten with cables. They’ve had their testicles twisted until they’ve passed out. They’ve been forced into torturous stress positions and subjected to electric shocks. They’ve been threatened with rape.

The report, prepared by the office of the  U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, does not say whether or not U.S. officials are aware of the torture. But once General John R. Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, learned of the abuses, he reportedly ordered a halt in detainee transfers to the 16 Afghan facilities named in the report as sites where torture was a normal occurrence.Furthermore, General Allen plans to investigate those sites and train Afghans in modern interrogation techniques.

NATO issued a statement vowing to support “all initiatives to ensure that detainees are treated humanely and their human rights are respected.”

But with America’s own record on detainee torture far from clean, and with the U.S. staunchly backing the Afghan intelligence and security forces with training, funding, equipment and diplomatic cover, these latest revelations call into question whether or not the United States is complicit in the abuse and if the U.S. has benefited from intelligence gleaned from tortured Afghan detainees.

The Afghan government is denying the report’s worst allegations, but has admitted to “deficiencies” as it attempts to fight a war against the Taliban and other insurgents. “We take this report very seriously,” Afghan deputy national security adviser Shaida M. Abdali told the New York Times. “Our government, especially the president, has taken a very strong stand on the protection of everyone’s human rights, their humanity, everywhere and especially in prisons and in detention,” he added.

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