UN condemns alleged US abuse

The United Nations has condemned new allegations of abuse of prisoners by US troops in Afghanistan and called for tough action to deal with the offenders.

    Afghans have complained of torture in US custody

    The comments on Sunday come a day before US

    President George Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are

    to meet at the White House.

    "Such abuses are utterly unacceptable and are an affront to

    everything the international community stands for in Afghanistan,"

    Jean Arnault, UN special representative in Afghanistan, said in a

    strongly worded statement.

    Two Afghan prisoners held in a US-run prison at Bagram Airbase

    were tortured to death by American soldiers, The New York Times

    reported on Friday, citing a leaked 2000-page file on the US Army's

    criminal investigation of the case.

    The two men died in 2002 after being kicked, beaten and hung

    from their wrists on the ceiling of their cells in what the paper

    described as a wider pattern of abuse by young and poorly trained

    soldiers that bore hallmarks of the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq.

    The Afghan leader publicly expressed his shock at the alleged

    abuse before his trip to Washington, where he will meet with Bush

    to discuss the allegations as well as anti-US riots that swept

    Afghanistan earlier this month, killing at least 15.

    'Inexcusable crimes'

    Hours before he left Kabul, the US-backed president also called

    for greater Afghan control of US military operations.

    Arnault echoed Karzai's call for "the punishment of all those

    involved in these inexcusable crimes".

    "Such abuses are utterly unacceptable and are an affront to everything the international community stands for in Afghanistan"

    Jean Arnault,
    UN special representative in Afghanistan

    The UN called for firm guarantees that such abuses would not be

    committed again, and renewed requests for access to prisons and

    detention facilities by the Afghan Independent Human Rights

    Commission.

    "We understand that, since 2002, steps have been taken in Bagram

    and other facilities to eradicate mistreatment and improve

    conditions of detention. We urge that such measures be made public

    without delay," Arnault said.

    The statement added that complaints of arbitrary arrest,

    detention without charge and the treatment of detainees continue to

    be raised.

    The UN Human Rights Commission last month failed to extend the

    mandate of Cherif Bassiouni, the independent expert on Human Rights

    in Afghanistan.

    Widespread abuse

    There were media reports of US pressure to dismiss Bassiouni

    after he issued a report alleging widespread abuse of prisoners in

    US military custody in Afghanistan.

    Bassiouni's report said he had received credible reports of

    arbitrary detention, forced nudity, use of stress positions, sleep

    and food deprivation, sexual abuse, beatings and torture of

    prisoners in US detention.

    Hamid Karzai has expressed his
    shock at the allegations

    At least eight prisoners have died in US custody in Afghanistan

    since 2001, most recently in September when detainee Sher Mohammad

    Khan died a day after his arrest in the southeastern province of

    Khost.

    Military officials in Khost first told journalists in Kabul that

    he had died of a heart attack and later said he had been bitten by a

    snake.

    In the case of the deaths in 2002 at Bagram Airbase, a US

    military spokesman maintained that both men had died of natural

    causes even after coroners had ruled the deaths homicides.

    According to The New York Times, 27 soldiers faced probable

    criminal charges over the two Bagram deaths, but so far only seven

    have been charged with an offence.

    SOURCE: AFP


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