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|khawaij beat Muslim prsioners to show their loyalties to the american kaffar|
|12/29/01 at 18:27:17|
|Afghan jailers beat confessions from men|
Concern for 3,000 detainees yet to be seen and puton Red Cross roll
Afghanistan's new authorities are brutalising Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners to soften them up before handing them over to American forces. Guards admitted yesterday to the Guardian that they routinely tortured inmates during interrogations to extract information, which was given to American officials trying to identify suspects to be prosecuted in the US.
Beatings were an efficient and time-honoured method of persuading people to talk, they said.
Conditions in Afghanistan's dozens of jails vary from comfortable to atrocious and the Red Cross is investigating claims that 43 Taliban prisoners died from suffocation while being taken to a jail in the north, Shibarghan, 100 miles west of the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
A week ago, a US spokesman in Pakistan said that American forces and their Afghan allies were holding about 7,000 Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners in various jails, including fortresses, a desert compound, an aircraft hangar and a warship. Most had been caught in the past month.
Talking to the Guardian, the governor of Kabul's so-called third directorate jail, Abdul Qayum, said of those held in his institution: "At first we use Islamic and humanitarian behaviour towards them to get confessions, and if that doesn't work then we use physical force."
Mr Qayum, whose jail answers to the national security ministry, declined to say exactly what violence was inflicted on the inmates, whom he said numbered between 40 and 50. After conferring with a colleague who had just visited the cells, he cancelled our planned tour.
There was nothing shocking in the admission of violence, said Mr Qayum, because it was well known that British jailers used nails on inmates. He offered no source for this information.
His prisoners, caught in Kabul six weeks ago and suspected of being low-ranking Arab and Pakistani members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, would be probably handed over to the United Nations or the US, he said.
That they possessed guns but not passports or identity documents was proof of al-Qaida membership and confessions were needed to clinch their guilt, said Mr Qayum. They had been visited by the Red Cross, he added.
According to the humanitarian agency, Kabul had 22 detention centres, including cells beneath police stations and private houses. Northern Alliance soldiers and policemen said most had been emptied in the past fortnight and the captives moved to undisclosed locations in the Panjshir valley, one of the anti-Taliban heartlands.
Aghai Gul, a Northern Alliance soldier commanding a checkpoint at Kotali Hihana, on the northern outskirts of Kabul, said that all his prisoners had also been moved, but it emerged one was left.
Locked in a metal container behind the checkpoint was Mohammed Rahim, 40, pale from four weeks without sunlight. Arrested in Kabul on suspicion of being a Pakistani who helped the Taliban, he had been given enough food, water and blankets but complained of being kicked, punched and thrashed with a stick.
"They beat me so much they had to take me to the hospital, then they took me here. I'm still sick but they won't bring me a doctor." Mr Gul admitted Mr Rahim had been thrashed. "Of course we beat him; sometimes it is the only way to get the truth out of them."
Such maltreatment is mild compared to the torture and slaughter of each other's prisoners perpetrated by Taliban and Northern Alliance troops in recent years. Aid workers who have visited prisoners in the past month have said violence has tended to subside after initial questioning.
But the Red Cross is concerned that it has been able to register only 4,000 of the 7,000 prisoners which the US says it and its Afghan allies have in custody.
Afghanistan's new government appears to be hastening the transfer of prisoners to US forces, which are in turn speeding up construction of improvised jails in their military bases and navy warships.
Twenty bound and hooded Arab fighters were delivered yesterday on a C-130 aircraft to American marines at the southern city of Kandahar. Reports said that this raised to at least 45 the number of alleged al-Qaida members in US custody.
A number of these suspects have been sifted from the 3,000 inmates being screened at the Shibarghan jail in the north, a cold, overcrowded place said to be serving one meal a day. Abdul Rashid Dostam, the Uzbek strongman who is now deputy defence minister in the interim government in Kabul, has said all foreign prisoners would be handed over to US forces.
What will happen to them is uncertain. Washington calls them "detainees", not "prisoners of war", a term enshrined in international conventions that spell out what rights and treatment such people must be accorded.
Source: The Guardian
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