45 per cent of Afghan prisoners report being tortured or mistreated in custody. Not only is this deeply unethical, it is a global security issueby Rupert Stone / June 7, 2017 / Leave a comment
Afghanistan is collapsing. The Taliban now controls more territory than at any point since 2001. Terrorist attacks, such as the huge car bomb that killed 90 people in Kabul last week, are depressingly common. To arrest this decline in security, Donald Trump looks set to deploy thousands more American troops.
But the country is suffering from another crisis, one that pundits and policymakers rarely mention: torture. According to the UN’s latest report, prisoner abuse in Afghanistan is at its highest level since records began. Of those detained by the police from 2015 to 2016, a stunning 45 per cent reported being tortured or mistreated in custody.
The US State Department’s 2016 human rights report identified “torture and abuse of detainees by government forces” as one of the most significant human rights problems in the country. It also noted that there was “widespread disregard for the rule of law and little accountability for those who committed human rights abuses.”
Even the country’s Vice President, Abdul Rashid Dostum, has repeatedly been accused of abusing and murdering captives, most notoriously in November 2001 when he was reportedly involved in the killing of at least several hundred Taliban prisoners.
More recently, Dostum has been in the spotlight for allegedly kidnapping a political rival in northern Afghanistan last year, who was subjected to beatings and rape with an assault rifle. The Afghan government vowed to investigate the matter, and arrest warrants were issued for Dostum’s guards. But the vice president refused to cooperate.
“The government is so weak, and the warlords so strong, that it is dubious whether the administration’s laws will be enforced”
Dostum is one of the most powerful figures in Afghanistan. He was a key player in the civil war which erupted after the Soviet occupation, when various warlords fought for control of the country. Those strongmen, backed by personal militias, were eventually defeated by the Taliban, but they returned to prominence after the US-led invasion.
Dostum is now serving in Kabul’s National Unity Government, which was brokered in 2014 after a disputed election. The government is deeply divided and dysfunctional, and its president, Ashraf Ghani, is reluctant to confront the vice president over the torture allegations and risk further instability.
Indeed, when Dostum would not comply with the arrest warrants, the government backed off, allowing him and his guards to remain under…