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Afghanistan's fingernail factories

By Kellie Tranter - posted Monday, 17 October 2011

If you're feeling all patriotic after reading Kevin Rudd's 'Australia stands with Syrians fighting for freedom' I don't recommend you read the UNAMA report 'Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees in Afghan Custody' that was released this week.

The practices documented meet the international definition of torture. This war has dragged all of us through the mud of vulgarity, brutality and inhumanity, and continues to do so.

The report asserts that 46 per cent of prisoners held by security forces, and about one-third of those held by Afghan National Police (ANP),are tortured.


Ten per cent of the prisoners examined were minors, and nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of the children held by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and ANP were tortured.

Detainees (which include children) described experiencing torture in the form of suspension (being hung by the wrists from chains or other devices for lengthy periods) and beatings with rubber hoses, electric cables or wooden sticks, most frequently on the soles of the feet. Then there's electric shocks, twisting and wrenching of detainees' genitals, stress positions including forced standing, removal of toenails, threatened sexual abuse, routine blindfolding and hooding and denial of access to medical care. One case resulted in death.

UNAMA didn't find indications of torture at the provincial NDS facility in Uruzgan when it visited, but as was reported last month there is also a police-run prison in Uruzgan where some Afghans captured by Australian forces allegedly have been sent. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) says no Afghans detained by Australian troops have been handed over to the police-run prison in the past two years.

The report reveals that:

In early July 2011, US and ISAF military forces stopped transferring detainees to NDS and ANP authorities in Dai Kundi, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul based on reports of a consistent practice of torture and mistreatment of detainees in NDS and ANP detention facilities in those areas. In early September 2011, in response to the findings in this report, ISAF stated that it stopped transferring detainees to certain NDS and ANP installations as a precautionary measure.

The footnote reads:


....ISAF officers informed UNAMA that in early September ISAF stopped transferring detainees to 16 installations that UNAMA identified as facilities where UNAMA found compelling evidence of torture and ill-treatment by NDS and ANP officials as follows: NDS national Counter-Terrorism Department 90/124 in Kabul; NDS provincial facilities in Herat, Kandahar, Kapisa, Khost, Laghman and Takhar; and Kandahar District 2 NDS office; ANP district facilities in Kandahar including Daman, Arghandab, District 9 and Zhari; ANP headquarters in Khost, Kunduz and Uruzgan; and the ANP district facility in Dasht-e-Archi, Kunduz.

So torture and ill-treatment are still the norm at the ANP headquarters in Uruzgan.

Minister Stephen Smith concedes that this is a "facility of concern" but asserts that Afghan detainees have not been transferred to this particular facility by the ADF. That may be the case, but will the ADF or Minister Smith or the Prime Minister guarantee that ADF detainees handed over to the NDS were not transferred to the ANP facility in Uruzgan, or transferred between provinces to other suspect facilities? How far are the headquarters from Australia's military base? Have we visited?

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About the Author

Kellie Tranter is a lawyer and human rights activist. You can follow her on Twitter @KellieTranter

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