The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has expressed grave concern about credible accounts of Taliban subjecting detainees to ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, as well as serious allegations that some detainees were killed. Reports also indicate that detainees were held in poor conditions and made to do forced labour.
UNAMA’s preliminary findings derive from face-to-face interviews with 13 detainees freed from a Taliban-run detention facility in Uruzgan on 25 April 2019 in an Afghan National Army Special Forces operation.
They provided consistent accounts of the poor conditions in which they were held and credible claims of ill-treatment and torture, as well as the murder of civilians and security personnel. Multiple detainees reported the murder of at least 11 others by the Taliban.
“I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture, and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA.
The group of 53 detainees freed from the Taliban-run facility known as Kalatak, located in the village of Shira in the Khas-Uruzgan district of Uruzgan, included 45 members of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and eight civilians, including three civilian government officials. Most of the detainees had been held since 2018, with three held since 2016.
All those released reported being shackled permanently. Some had scars on their ankles. All but one of the detainees interviewed by UNAMA reported being beaten. Some detainees reported that during the beatings the Taliban demanded they provide information or confess to specific acts.
The remainder of the detainees said the beatings were punishment for what they were told was supporting the government, working with Americans or fighting the Taliban.
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All detainees reported being held incommunicado and underground in five overcrowded rooms. Detainees said that for a minimum of seven hours a day they were forced to labour, including making improvised explosive devices, contrary to international humanitarian law.
Detainees said they were held in sub-zero temperatures during winter and were fed beans and bread twice a day, with no medical aid apart from some painkillers and antiseptics for wounds.
UNAMA’s preliminary findings indicate that the conditions of detention and the treatment of the detainees contravenes minimum standards applicable to a party to a non-international conflict.
“The United Nations reminds the Taliban that international humanitarian law applicable to international and non-international armed conflicts provides that all persons who do not take direct part in hostilities, or who have ceased to do so, must always be treated humanely,” said Richard Bennett, UNAMA’s Chief of Human Rights.
UNAMA is mandated by the UN Security Council to monitor places of detention, to promote accountability and to assist in the full implementation of the fundamental freedoms and human rights provisions of the Afghan Constitution and the international treaties to which Afghanistan is a party.
Since 2011 UNAMA has monitored and reported on the treatment of conflict-related detainees. UNAMA publishes its findings and recommendations in reports jointly produced every two years with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The most recent report on the ‘Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees in Afghanistan’ was released in April 2019. UNAMA says it will continue to assess the situation of detainees that have been held by Anti-Government Elements as opportunities arise.
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