Coalition spokesman Major Mark McCann said in Kabul on Wednesday that three cases are still under investigation, three are pending judicial disposition, one is complete, and the status of the last Afghan is not yet known.

In an open letter to US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said: "The detention system in Afghanistan continues to operate outside the rule of law.

"The United States continues to hold Afghan detainees in legal limbo and in many cases incommunicado, in violation of US obligations under the laws of armed conflict and applicable Afghan law."

In May 2004, the US top commander General David Barno directed General Charles Jacoby to review and inspect the 22 US detention centres across Afghanistan, including the two main facilities in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Bagram.

No abuse evidence

During the inspection, Gen Jacoby found no evidence of abuse at the facilities, nor was there any evidence of leaders authorising or condoning abuse, McCann said.

Only the ICRC was permitted
inside the detention centres

"This was a voluntary, command-directed inspection of current operations, not an investigation as stated in a letter to Secretary Rumsfeld; it did not look back on past practices," said McCann.

HRW added that any detainees, especially those held for long
periods at forward operating bases, were never seen by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

So far, the ICRC has been the only international organisation permitted to visit US detention centres in Bagram and Kandahar.

McCann says that according to the Geneva Conventions, the US forces will not allow reporters to visit detainees as they are not permitted to put them "up on display for public curiosity reasons".

According to coalition forces, there are more than 400 Afghans held in US custody in Afghanistan.