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Abu Ghraib Redux

By       Message WILLIAM FISHER     Permalink
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Athough detainees have the right under Afghan law to family visits, only 28 percent of detainees interviewed were permitted family visits during their detention in NDS facilities.   

UNAMA documented other due process concerns and violations by NDS   a nd ANP officials. These include the routine failure to meet procedural time limits demarcating the phases of the pre-trial criminal investigation and chain of custody, lack of clarity in the roles of arresting authorities and prosecutors, and lack of judicial oversight of pre-trial detention until very late in the pre-trial process.  

Since most conflict-related detainees do not have access to defense counsel or information about their rights, the absence of these procedural safeguards has a huge negative impact on detainees' ability to challenge the legality of their detention, prepare a credible defense, or seek protection from torture or coercion.  

Is this what we hoped to achieve in Afghanistan over the past ten years? I don't think so.  

I think that when military brass comes to the US to testify before Congress or meet with key lawmakers, they tend to talk about Afghanistan, the big picture. I have never heard a visiting officer say a single word about prisons, unless he/she was asked a question.   

And when Congressional delegations travel to Afghanistan for first-hand briefings, I doubt that Afghan (or American, for that matter) prisons are anywhere close to their itinerary.   

They may or may not be encouraged by what they see -- what they're shown -- but it's clear that prisons didn't make the cut.  

Do we have to have another Abu Ghraib-type scandal before we can cajole Mr. Karzai and his people to stop torturing detainees and follow his own country's laws?   

That's exactly what's going to happen if Karzai continues to ignore this barbarian behavior. And that will bring a heap of trouble, not only for Karzai, but for our troops in Afghanistan and their leader, Barack Obama.


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William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)

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