US Afghan abuses condemned

US military forces in Afghanistan have mistreated detainees, arbitrarily detained civilians and used excessive force in arresting non-combatants, a rights watchdog has said.

    The US invaded Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks

    Human Rights Watch said it concluded "the US-administered

    system of arrest and detention in Afghanistan exists outside of the

    rule of law".

    The United States has detention facilities at the Bagram,

    Kandahar, Jalalabad and Asadabad military bases.

    "The United States is setting a terrible example in Afghanistan

    on detention practices," said Brad Adams, executive director of the

    Asia division of Human Rights Watch, on Sunday.

    "Civilians are being held in a legal black hole - with no

    tribunals, no legal counsel, no family visits and no basic legal

    protections."

    US 'stonewalling'

    And Washington has not responded adequately to questions about

    arrest and detention practices, the group charged.

    "The United States is setting a terrible example in Afghanistan

    on detention practices.

    Civilians are being held in a legal black hole - with no

    tribunals, no legal counsel, no family visits and no basic legal

    protections"

    Brad Adams,
    Human Rights Watch

    It gave the example of three detainees it said were known to

    have died while in US custody, two at the Bagram airbase north of

    Kabul in December 2002 and one at Asadabad in June 2003.

    The first

    two deaths were ruled homicides by US military pathologists who

    performed autopsies on the two men, but US officials have yet to

    explain what happened to any of the three men, the watchdog said.

    "This stonewalling must stop," said Adams. "The United States is

    obligated to investigate allegations and prosecute those who have

    violated the law. There is no sign that serious investigations are

    taking place."

    The report is based on research conducted by Human

    Rights Watch in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2003 and early 2004.

    Deadly force

    "Human Rights Watch documented cases of US forces using military

    tactics, including unprovoked deadly force, during operations to

    apprehend civilians in uncontested residential areas and in situations

    where law enforcement standards and tactics should have been used,"

    the group said.

    "Released detainees have said that US forces severely beat them,

    doused them with cold water and subjected them to freezing

    temperatures.

    "Many said they were forced to stay awake, or to stand

    or kneel in painful positions for extended periods of time," according to the report

    .

    It also reported that "frequent arbitrary arrests of civilians,

    apparently based on mistaken or faulty intelligence" have been carried out.

    Denial

    US President George Bush and officials in his administration

    said in June 2003 the US did not torture or

    mistreat detainees in its custody.

    "But the United States has refused to allow any independent

    observers access to detention facilities in Afghanistan, except for

    the International Committee of the Red Cross, which does not report

    publicly on its findings," the rights group said.

    Human Rights Watch noted that some documented abuses in the

    report took place after President Bush's statement.

    SOURCE: AFP


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