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U.S. State Department report exposes extensive human rights abuses in Afghanistan by U.S.-backed government

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Message Kenneth Theisen
On February 25th, the U.S. State Department issued its annual human rights reports for countries around the world. These annual reports are issued and generally used as a political and propaganda tool to chastise other government such as China. I just finished reading the report for Afghanistan and would urge others to take a look at it too. (The report can be read at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/sca/119131.htm)

The report is biased and attacks the Taliban and other forces that currently are fighting the U.S. in Afghanistan as violators of human rights. [The Taliban is a reactionary force and is guilty of many crimes against the people of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan have no interest in supporting these reactionary forces.] But the State Department report also unintentionally indicts the U.S. puppet government of Hamid Karzai, even while the report tries to portray the Karzai government in the best light.

Both the Taliban and Karzai governments created a living hell

One of the alleged reasons often given to justify the continuing U.S. occupation of that war-torn nation is that the U.S. is there to protect the Afghan people from the Taliban which made daily life a living hell for most Afghans when it ruled the country. But after reading the report, it is clear the Afghan people also need protection from the puppet government installed by the U.S. after it invaded the country. Life is still a living hell for most of the population.  All the quotes in this article are from the State Department's own document. I want to warn readers that much of what is reported is very upsetting.

Elections and perceptions

The beginning of the report mentions the election of President Hamid Karzai in 2004 and the elections for parliament the next year. To quote the State Department, "...the elections did not fully meet international standards for free and fair elections, [but] citizens perceived the outcomes as acceptable..."  The report further states, "Observers stated it did not meet international standards and noted irregularities, including pervasive intimidation of voters and candidates, especially women."  But we are not supposed to worry about reality as long as the people are fooled into accepting the outcome.

Karzai was hand-picked by his U.S. handlers and the parliament included warlords, drug lords, feudal landlords, and others that have been the cause of much of the suffering of the Afghan people over the last few decades. Even the State Department acknowledges that members of parliament include human rights abusers. Without any proof, the State Department states that citizens accepted the outcome. Given the current state of the war there this seems doubtful, as many are actively fighting the government. The Karzai government's actual rule is non-existent in much of the country. The report acknowledges this by stating, "...Taliban or factions operating outside government control exercised authority in some areas."

Human rights record under Karzai "remained poor"

The second paragraph of the report deserves to be quoted in full: "The country's human rights record remained poor. Human rights problems included extrajudicial killings; torture; poor prison conditions; official impunity; prolonged pretrial detention; restrictions on freedom of the press; restrictions on freedom of religion; violence and societal discrimination against women; restrictions on religious conversions; abuses against minorities; sexual abuse of children; trafficking in persons; abuse of worker rights; and child labor." Well there is a record that surely justifies the continuing war and occupation of the country.  Of course much of that could also be said about the U.S. government's human rights record so maybe these problems in Afghanistan do not really bother the U.S. State Department.

"Arbitrary or unlawful killings"

The report goes on to document some of the governmental abuses.  "There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings...In May the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions visited the country and reported on many cases in which police killed civilians with impunity...His preliminary report dated May 29 stated that although there were no reliable figures on the numbers of such killings, the numbers of alleged killings were high enough to give Afghans, particularly in the south, some reason to support the Taliban. On May 10 in Nangarhar, police fired on protesters, killing two civilians, media outlets reported. In November the government executed 16 prisoners. At year's end, approximately 85 additional cases of prisoners sentenced to death were pending President Karzai's review. The EU, UN, and numerous human rights NGOs have condemned executions, noting the lack of due process in the judicial system did not guarantee a fair trial...There were no developments in the investigation of a May 2007 killing of 10 persons by police in Jowzjan Province or the October 2007 case of 15 prisoners executed at Pol-e-Charkhi prison under executive order amid allegations of lack of due process."

"Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment." 

There is a section in the report entitled, "Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment."  It makes particularly gruesome reading, but I will quote it extensively as it reveals what is being perpetrated by the U.S-supported government. "The constitution prohibits such practices; however, there were reports of abuses by government officials, local prison authorities, police chiefs, and tribal leaders. NGOs reported security forces continued to use excessive force, including beating and torturing civilians."

"Human rights organizations reported local authorities tortured and abused detainees. Torture and abuse included pulling out fingernails and toenails, burning with hot oil, beatings, sexual humiliation, and sodomy. A February 21 UN Secretary-General report noted detainees continued to complain of torture by law enforcement officials."

"In November 2007 Amnesty International (AI) reported prisoners consistently were subject to torture once transferred to local authorities. The report documented specific cases of torture and noted AI received repeated reports from both individuals and international organizations of torture and ill-treatment by the National Directorate of Security (NDS). The government rejected the report's assertions... The Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) and NGOs reported police frequently raped female detainees and prisoners... According to a June 25 Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) report, approximately half of the children in detention centers and orphanages were exposed to physical abuse. One 13-year-old boy told AIHRC police beat him with the barrel of a gun until he confessed. According to a UN Security Council report, cases of authorities threatening and mistreating juvenile detainees occurred throughout the year."

Prison conditions are inhumane

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Kenneth J. Theisen is veteran activist of movements opposing U.S. imperialism, its wars and domination of countries throughout the world. He wrote his first op-ed piece against the Vietnam war when he was only 12 and has been writing on various (more...)
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