The United Nations says torture is still widespread in Afghanistan's prisons, a year after the U.N. first documented abuse and the Karzai government promised to reform its detention practices.
A report issued Sunday by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan found “credible and reliable evidence” that more than half of the 635 “conflict-related detainees” interviewed at 89 facilities across the country had been tortured. That is about the same proportion the U.N. found in its first report in 2011.
In particular, the U.N. report found that the Afghan government appeared to be trying to hide the mistreatment, and refusing to prosecute those accused of torturing prisoners. The Afghan government disputed the U.N. team's findings.
The report documented how Afghan authorities leave detainees hanging from the ceiling by their wrists, beat them with cables and wooden sticks, administer electric shocks, twist their genitals, threaten to violently sodomize prisoners or kill them. The allege abuse was carried out in multiple detention centers.
The report said about 30 percent of the 79 detainees transferred to Afghan custody by foreign governments ended up being tortured, and that Afghanistan's spy agency operated secret facilities to avoid international scrutiny.
NATO-led forces in Afghanistan have been gradually handing over detainees to Afghan control ahead of the withdrawal of most international forces over the next year.
The U.S. and other nations in the International Security Force in Afghanistan ISAF nations halted transfers to nine Afghan-run facilities after the U.N. mission's 2011 study reported hundreds of instances of torture or abuseof detainees – in some cases, children – by Afghan authorities.
In a letter responding to the latest report, the Afghan government said its internal monitoring committee found “the allegations of torture of detainees were untrue and thus disproved.”
The Afghan government said it does not completely rule out the possibility of torture at its detention facilities, but that it was nowhere near the levels described in the report and that it was checking on reports of abuse.
The European Union said in a statement it was “deeply concerned” by the report.