Afghan Panel Claims to Find Secret Prisons
By Azam Ahmed and Taimoor Shah
New York Times : April 26, 2014
KABUL, Afghanistan — A commission appointed by President Hamid Karzai to investigate detention facilities run by American and British forces in southern Afghanistan claimed Saturday to have uncovered secret prisons on two coalition bases, an allegation that could not be immediately confirmed but that was likely to further complicate relations between the Afghan government and its allies.
“We have conducted a thorough investigation and search of Kandahar Airfield and Camp Bastion and found several illegal and unlawful detention facilities run and operated by foreign military forces,” said Abdul Shakur Dadras, the panel’s chairman.
Mr. Dadras offered no evidence to support his assertion, though he promised to release more details after presenting his report to Mr. Karzai.
Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale, a spokesman for the Defense Department, wrote in an email, “Every facility that we use for detention is well known not only by the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, but also by the I.C.R.C.,” a reference to the International Committee of the Red Cross, a nonpartisan organization that provides humanitarian care for victims of conflict.
The International Security Assistance Force, or I.S.A.F., as the coalition is known, said in a statement on Saturday that it was “aware of their investigative team looking into the detention facilities in Kandahar and Helmand and we are cooperating fully with the investigation on this matter.”
The accusations are the latest salvo in a dispute over the detention of Afghans by foreign forces. The issue reached a climax early this year, when the Afghan government released from the former American prison at Bagram dozens of prisoners the coalition claimed had killed American soldiers.
Before that, the transfer of the prison itself called attention to the deteriorating relationship between the Afghans and their American allies in a public way.
The Americans have accused the Afghan government of using the issue to score political points. The Afghans say the foreigners have unfairly imprisoned people without credible evidence and insist that they run all detention facilities in the country.
Mr. Dadras said that his team was sent to the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand to review the prisons on two coalition bases, Kandahar Airfield, run by the Americans, and Camp Bastion, run by the British.
He said his team reviewed the number of prisoners as well as the details of their detention. The issue at Camp Bastion has been aired before. The British military must abide by rules that prohibit the transfer of prisoners to facilities where torture is believed to occur. For now, that concern is unresolved, and the sites where these detainees are held by the British forces could be the locations Mr. Dadras is referring to.
In Kandahar, the details are less clear. American forces are allowed to detain combatants seized on the battlefield for up to 96 hours before turning them over to the Afghan government. It was unclear whether Mr. Dadras was referring to such detainees or whether his commission had uncovered evidence of prisons that were illegally holding Afghans.
Early on Saturday, a coalition helicopter crashed after it malfunctioned in Kandahar Province, killing five service members. The coalition did not release the nationalities of the soldiers. Britain’s Defense Ministry said that the helicopter was British and confirmed that all of the dead were as well, according to The Associated Press.
(read the full article at New York Times)
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