The findings include the use of brutal beatings and electric shock at several Afghan-run centers to wrest confessions from detainees. The account, based on interviews with detainees conducted as recently as August, raises questions about whether U.S. officials knew or should have known about abuses involving prisoners turned over to the Afghans.
George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, said the United States is reviewing the “serious allegations” in the U.N. report. The Afghan government challenged the findings, saying that some depictions were “not close to reality,’’ but it also pledged to investigate the allegations of torture and abuse.
“Maybe there are deficiencies with a country stricken by war and a wave of suicide attacks and other terroristic crimes, we do not claim perfection and that we are doing things 100% in accordance with how things should be,” the Afghan government wrote in its response to the U.N. findings, which was included as an annex to the report.
The report reveals serious deficiencies in the Afghan security institutions, primarily the intelligence agency known as the National Directorate for Security (NDS) and the Afghan National Police, organizations that will only gain more responsibility as the U.S. military begins its withdrawal from Afghanistan this year.
The 74-page U.N. report paints a picture of an Afghan detention system routinely and severely abusing its inmates, most of them suspected militants caught at the height of the Obama administration’s surge in Afghanistan. U.S. troops detain thousands of suspected insurgents each year and regularly pass them off to Afghan authorities.
Among the nearly 400 prisoners interviewed by U.N. investigators over an 11-month period that ended in August, 89 said they had been captured by international forces acting either alone or together with Afghan forces. Among the group, the U.N. said it had found “compelling evidence’’ that 22 of them had been tortured in Afghan custody.
Detainees described being hung by their wrists; beaten with rubber hoses, electric cables, wires or sticks; subjected to electric shocks on their bodies and soles of their feet; having toenails removed; enduring “twisting and wrenching” of genitals; and being threatened with sexual abuse, the report says.
Briefed in advance about the U.N. findings, the U.S.-led coalition had halted the transfer of prisoners to several Afghan-run detention centers last month. There has been no indication about when those transfers might resume, leaving U.S. forces in Afghanistan to maintain custody of suspected insurgents captured on the battlefield, at a time when the population of the main American detention center, near the Bagram air base, had already been swelling.