Last Updated: September 20, 2023, 14:44 IST
UN mission in Afghanistan has documented more than 1600 cases of human rights violations during the arrest and detention of Afghans in the Taliban-ruled country, according to a new report released Wednesday. Nearly 50 percent of these violations comprise acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, according to the report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) covering the period from January 1, 2022, to July 31 this year.
“These occurred overwhelmingly throughout the process of arrest and custody in places of detention under the de facto Ministry of Interior (MOI), and de facto General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI). Rare instances were documented in prisons under the de facto Office of Prison Administration (OPA),” the UNAMA report said.
In attempts to extract confessions or other information, detainees were subjected to severe pain and suffering, through physical beatings, electric shocks, asphyxiation, stress positions and forced ingestion of water, as well as blind-folding and threats, according to the report. Violations of due process guarantees, including denial of access to lawyers, are the norm, it added.
“These violations have occurred despite the issuance of directives from the de facto authorities aimed at better protecting human rights of detainees and regulating the conduct of security personnel. These directives, including a code of conduct issued by the de facto authorities’ leader in January 2022 and similar ad hoc instructions, have not been sufficiently followed at the operational level, the report found,” the UNAMA report said.
The report highlighted the urgent need for the professionalisation of Taliban’s security and prison authorities in a number of areas, including their capacity to conduct investigations. “The personal accounts of beatings, electric shocks, water torture, and numerous other forms of cruel and degrading treatment, along with threats made against individuals and their families, are harrowing. Torture is forbidden in all circumstances,” said Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“This report suggests that torture is also used as a tool – in lieu of effective investigations. I urge all concerned de facto authorities to put in place concrete measures to halt these abuses and hold perpetrators accountable.” “The prevalence of torture, coupled with the systemic violation of procedural safeguards in custody, such as lack of access to lawyers, must be comprehensively addressed by the de facto authorities.”
The UN mission in the war-torn country asked the radical Islamic outfit to establish a stronger legal aid framework and address blockages in the criminal justice process caused by high volumes of arbitrary arrests with no effective judicial oversight. “Although there have been some encouraging signs in terms of leadership directives as well as an openness among many de facto officials to engage constructively with UNAMA, and allow visits to prisons, these documented cases highlight the need for urgent, accelerated action by all,” said Roza Otunbayeva, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA.
“There is a pressing need to consider more engagement with the de facto authorities to end these practices, and I hope the report and its recommendations are seized upon as a matter of priority. We remain committed to the people of Afghanistan and our efforts to maintain constructive engagement, with impartiality and in good faith.”