A new U.N. report claims that widespread torture and abuse of detainees continues at Afghan police and intelligence facilities. Earlier this month President Hamid Karzai said that all detainees held by the U.S. and its allies would be transferred to Afghan custody. But the new allegations of torture could make such a transfer illegal. The 100-page report, that was released on Monday, was based on several hundred interviews and about half of the interviewed detainees and former detainees alleged torture or abuse. In 2011, a similar report caused the U.S. to halt transfers of detainees to nine Afghan facilities.
More than half of the 635 detainees questioned by U.N. investigators in the 12 months ending in October were ill-treated or tortured, including being subjected to severe beatings or electric shocks, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said.
The allegations, which the Afghan government calls "exaggerated," are likely to complicate discussions about the handling of detainees, a source of debate between the United States and Afghanistan as the countries prepare for the departure of most foreign troops next year.
Many of the suspected fighters who end up in Afghan custody are captured by U.S. and allied troops. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led force said it has suspended the transfer of detainees to the facilities identified in the U.N. report and is working with Afghan authorities to address abuses.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has frequently maintained that the handling of detainees is a question of national sovereignty. During discussions with President Obama this month, he reiterated his demand that all Afghan prisoners be turned over to Afghan authorities.
Torture decreased at some facilities after the U.N. issued a report in 2011, and transfers of detainees to Afghan authorities were halted, but again increased after transfers resumed, according to the new report.
In all, 14 methods of abuse were documented. The report said evidence of torture occurred most frequently at facilities in the southern province of Kandahar, the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.
U.N. investigators received what they described as credible reports about the disappearance of 81 people who were arrested by Kandahar police between September 2011 and October 2012. They were also told about the reported existence of several unofficial detention sites and said some detainees held by intelligence officials were hidden from international observers — allegations denied by the intelligence agency.
Of the prisoners interviewed, 105 were children under international law, and a large majority of these juvenile prisoners had been tortured. Only a very small portion of prisoners had been in Afghan army or Afghan local police custody, but they also reported torture by those forces.
"A majority of NDS and ANP [Afghan National Police] officials do not accept that torture is ineffective and counter-productive as a tool to obtain strategically valuable and actionable intelligence to fight terrorism and conflict-related activities, let alone a serious crime under Afghan and international law," the report said.