Afghan officials acknowledge prisoner torture

  • New York Times
  • February 11, 2013 - 8:41 PM

An Afghan government panel on Monday acknowledged widespread torture of detainees, after a two-week investigation of a U.N. report citing rampant abuses.

In a news conference in Kabul, the panel's director said its inquiry had confirmed evidence that nearly half of the 284 prisoners interviewed in three provinces had been tortured during arrest or questioning. The inquiry also found that many of the detainees never had access to legal defense.

But even though the official, Abdul Qadir Adalatkhwa, noted that the findings were serious, he insisted that there was no evidence of "systematic torture."

The findings were the first formal acknowledgment by the Afghan government of a widespread problem with abuse, after initial denials by Afghan officials when the U.N. report was released on Jan. 20. In a statement, President Hamid Karzai's office said it had received the report and would further discuss it in a meeting with the judiciary on Wednesday.

Concerns about torture prompted NATO military forces to stop handing over battlefield detainees to Afghan officials in many places. And the broader issue of detainee transfers has been a lasting point of contention between U.S. officials and Karzai, who has insisted on complete Afghan authority over detentions.

Meanwhile, a U.S. military audit has found that the Afghan National Army may have broken the U.S.-led economic embargo against Iran by using American aid to buy Iranian fuel for its military vehicles, generators and cooking processes.

While there is no direct evidence that the Afghan army actually purchased Iranian oil with American tax dollars, the report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction describes the possibility as a cause for concern.

Between a third and half of all fuel bought by Afghanistan comes from Iran, the audit stated, citing figures compiled by the Department of State. Another quarter of its supply comes from Turkmenistan, and is commonly mixed with Iranian fuel.

The report notes that the U.S.-funded fuel purchasing program between 2007 and 2012 provided at least $1.1 billion to the Afghan army. But the money has been so poorly tracked, the audit notes, that it is impossible to determine the origin of the fuel.

In a related development, the U.S. Government Accountability Office on Monday issued a wide-ranging report on Afghanistan funding that noted "persistent corruption in Afghanistan undermines security and the people's belief in the government, as well as effective accountability of U.S. funds provided directly to the Afghan government."

Afghanistan gets around international sanction requirements on Iranian goods for reasons of economic necessity, and -- on a more practical level -- because the countries share a long border, and goods into Afghanistan increasingly pass through Iranian ports.

The McClatchy News Service contributed to this report.

© 2018 Star Tribune