A leading human rights group is "gravely concerned" that the well-being of more than 3,000 prisoners the US has agreed to turn over to the Afghans "depends on vague assurances of humane and fair treatment, despite evidence of torture and other mistreatment."
The US-based Human Rights First (HRF) added that the transfer was agreed last week despite Afghanistan showing little evidence of having established a mechanism to assure due process of detainees. "This renders the agreement badly flawed and HRF is gravely concerned about these shortcomings," the organization said in a statement.
HRF and numerous other organizations have been working for several years to end to the indefinite detention of Afghans and others being held without charge. HRF said it "welcomes efforts to transfer custody and responsibility for detention to Afghan authorities," but also sounded a note of caution.
The prisoner transfer, it said, could only be achieved "on conditions that assure humane treatment and fair trials."
The organization notes that the agreement announced today depends on vague assurances of humane and fair treatment, despite evidence of torture and other mistreatment that detainees have suffered in Afghan hands, and despite that Afghanistan has shown little evidence of having established a mechanism to assure due process of detainees. This renders the agreement badly flawed and Human Rights First is gravely concerned about these shortcomings.
An October 2011 report by the United Nations documented widespread and systematic torture and mistreatment in Afghan prisons. The allegations were so serious and credible that NATO immediately suspended transfer of prisoners to 16 Afghan prisons. The UN report highlighted that nearly all torture observed in Afghan jails took place during interrogations for the purpose of seeking confessions.
The Afghan government denied that torture was systematic, but acknowledged "deficiencies," including keeping prisoners in indefinite detention and not allowing them to see lawyers. The government asserted that abuses were due to a lack of training and resources. The government also pledged to uphold all national and international standards regarding protection of prisoners.
"The United States has done a good job of improving conditions of confinement for detainees at Bagram, but this agreement provides no reason to believe that those improved conditions will be maintained when this facility is under Afghan control," said HRF's Gabor Rona.