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Kabul urged to address prison issues

By Ians

Kabul, Sept 26: A new Afghan government committee investigating prison conditions should focus on meaningful reforms to end torture and other pervasive abuses, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

On Sep 8, President Hamid Karzai created a committee to study the general conditions of prisons and detention centres.

The panel was also tasked with studying the condition and situation of prisoners and detainees and submit findings and recommendations in three months.

Afghan detention centres and prisons are rife with serious abuse, including torture, medically invalid "virginity examination" of women, and holding detainees past their release date, Human Rights Watch said.

The problems are so pervasive that the committee will need to set priorities and focus on the key issues, it said.

"Karzai's new committee could be an important step for addressing the horrific abuses in Afghanistan's prisons," said Brad Adams at Human Rights Watch.

"But the committee will need not only to shine the light on the abuses going on behind Afghanistan's prison doors but to come up with ways to fix the system."

A UN report released in January found that more than half of 635 pre-trial detainees and prisoners convicted on national security grounds had been tortured or ill-treated in Afghan government custody.

Detainees told the UN investigators that torture was typically used to try to elicit confessions.

Fourteen forms of torture were reported, including suspension from ceilings, prolonged and severe beating, including on the soles of the feet, twisting genitals of male detainees, electric shock, prolonged standing or forced exercise, prolonged exposure to cold weather, and threats of execution and rape.

In addition to torture, the committee should investigate and produce recommendations to address other abuses common in prisons and detention facilities in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch said.


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