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Torture, abuse still rife in Afghan prisons, U.S. human rights report says

U.S. government document freely states what Canadian government censors

Globe and Mail Update

WASHINGTON — Torture and abuse remains rife in Afghan prisons, woman and children detainees are often raped, and the International Red Cross was prevented from visiting some prisons, the U.S. state Department reported today.

In its annual compendium of human rights in countries round the world, the U.S. report says Afghanistan's “human rights problems included extrajudicial killings; torture; poor prison conditions; official impunity; prolonged pretrial detention; restrictions on freedom of the press; restrictions on freedom of religion; violence and societal discrimination against women; restrictions on religious conversions; abuses against minorities; sexual abuse of children; trafficking in persons; abuse of worker rights; and child labor.”

A similar annual Canadian report prepared by the Foreign Affairs department is heavily censored to obliterate all references to torture and abuse of detainees and the worst abuses in prisons. The U.S reports are public and posted on the Internet unexpurgated. The Canadian ones are only available under the Access to Information Act and then only heavily redacted.

“Security forces continued to use excessive force, including beating and torturing civilians,” the U.S. report says. “Torture and abuse included pulling out fingernails and toenails, burning with hot oil, beatings, sexual humiliation, and sodomy.”

It also cited the UN Secretary-General's report from last year that found “detainees continued to complain of torture by law enforcement officials.”

Canada's policy is to turn those captured in battle over to the Afghan security forces, notably the National Security Directorate – Afghanistan's intelligence agency and state police. Although this year's U.S. report didn't explicitly accuse the NDS to torture, it did say “ NDS agents detained numerous journalists for expressing views critical of government officials.”

In Canada, right groups are seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in a case where they want a ban transferring detainees to Afghan authorities. The groups contend Canada's policy flouts the Geneva Convention, which outlaws knowingly transferring prisoners to torture, abuse or inhumane conditions.

The U.S. report says “prison conditions remained poor. Most were decrepit, severely overcrowded, unsanitary, and fell well short of international standards.”

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