Commentaries on the Prisoner Massacres in Afghanistan:
Fisk: We are the war criminals now
'Everything we have believed in since the Second
World War goes by the board as we pursue our own exclusive war.'
29 November 2001 The Independent
We are becoming war criminals in Afghanistan.
The US Air Force bombs Mazar-i-Sharif for the Northern Alliance, and
our heroic Afghan allies who slaughtered 50,000 people in Kabul between 1992
and 1996 move into the city and execute up to 300 Taliban fighters.
The report is a footnote on the television satellite channels, a "nib" in
journalistic parlance. Perfectly normal, it seems. The Afghans have a "tradition" of
revenge. So, with the strategic assistance of the USAF, a war crime
Now we have the Mazar-i-Sharif prison "revolt",
in which Taliban inmates opened fire on their Alliance jailers. US Special
Forces and, it has emerged, British troops helped the Alliance
to overcome the uprising and, sure enough, CNN tells us some prisoners
trying to escape. It is an atrocity. British troops are now stained
with war crimes. Within days, The Independent's Justin Huggler has
found more executed Taliban members in Kunduz.
The Americans have even less excuse for
this massacre. For the US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, stated
quite specifically during the siege of the city that US air raids on
the Taliban defenders would stop "if the Northern Alliance requested it".
Leaving aside the revelation that the thugs and murderers of the Northern
Alliance were now acting as air controllers to the USAF in its battle
with the thugs and murderers of the Taliban, Mr Rumsfeld's incriminating
remark places Washington in the witness box of any war-crimes trial
over Kunduz. The US were acting in full military co-operation with
the Northern Alliance militia.
Most television journalists, to their shame, have shown
little or no interest in these disgraceful crimes. Cosying up to the
Northern Alliance, chatting to the American troops, most have done little
more than mention the war crimes against prisoners in the midst of their
reports. What on earth has gone wrong with our moral compass since 11
Perhaps I can suggest an answer. After
both the First and Second World Wars, we the "West" grew a forest
of legislation to prevent further war crimes. The very first Anglo-French-Russian
attempt to formulate such laws was provoked by the Armenian Holocaust
at the hands of the Turks in 1915; The Entente said it would hold personally
responsible "all members of the (Turkish) Ottoman government and
those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres" . After
the Jewish Holocaust and the collapse of Germany in 1945, article 6 (C)
of the Nuremberg Charter and the Preamble of the UN Convention on genocide
referred to "crimes against humanity". Each new post-1945
war produced a raft of legislation and the creation of evermore human
rights groups to lobby the world on liberal, humanistic Western values.
Over the past 50 years, we sat on our
moral pedestal and lectured the Chinese and the Soviets, the Arabs
and the Africans, about human rights. We pronounced on the human-rights
crimes of Bosnians and Croatians and Serbs. We put many of them in
the dock, just as we did the Nazis at Nuremberg. Thousands of dossiers
were produced, describing in
nauseous detail the secret courts and death squads and torture
and extra judicial executions carried out by rogue states and pathological
dictators. Quite right too.
Yet suddenly, after 11 September, we went
mad. We bombed Afghan villages into rubble, along with their inhabitants blaming
the insane Taliban and Osama bin Laden for our slaughter and now
we have allowed our gruesome militia allies to execute their prisoners.
President George Bush has signed into law a set of secret military courts
to try and then liquidate anyone believed to be a "terrorist murderer" in
the eyes of America's awesomely inefficient intelligence services.
And make no mistake about it, we are talking here about legally sanctioned
American government death squads. They have been created, of course,
so that Osama bin Laden and his men should they be caught rather than
killed, will have no public defence; just a pseudo trial and a firing
It's quite clear what has happened. When
people with yellow or black or brownish skin, with Communist or Islamic
or Nationalist credentials, murder their prisoners or carpet bomb villages
to kill their enemies or set up death squad courts, they must be condemned
by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and the "civilised" world.
We are the masters of human rights, the Liberals, the great and good
who can preach to the impoverished masses. But when our people are murdered when
our glittering buildings are destroyed then we tear up every
piece of human rights legislation, send off the B-52s in the direction
of the impoverished masses and set out to murder our enemies.
Winston Churchill took the Bush view of
his enemies. In 1945, he preferred the straightforward execution of
the Nazi leadership. Yet despite the fact that Hitler's monsters were
responsible for at least 50 million deaths
10,000 times greater than the victims of 11 September the Nazi
murderers were given a trial at Nuremberg because US President Truman
made a remarkable decision. "Undiscriminating executions or punishments," he
"without definite findings of guilt fairly arrived at, would not
fit easily on the American conscience or be remembered by our children
No one should be surprised that Mr Bush a small-time
should fail to understand the morality of a statesman in the Whitehouse.
What is so shocking is that the Blairs, Schröders, Chiracs and
all the television boys should have remained so gutlessly silent in
the face of the Afghan executions and East European-style legislation
sanctified since 11 September.
There are ghostly shadows around to remind
us of the consequences of state murder. In France, a general goes on
trial after admitting to torture and murder in the 1954-62 Algerian
war, because he referred to his deeds as "justifiable acts of duty performed
without pleasure or remorse". And in Brussels, a judge will decide
if the Israeli Prime Minister, Arial Sharon, can be prosecuted for his "personal
responsibility" for the 1982 massacre in Sabra and Chatila.
Yes, I know the Taliban were a cruel bunch of bastards.
They committed most of their massacres outside Mazar-i-Sharif in the
late 1990s. They executed women in the Kabul football stadium. And yes,
lets remember that 11 September was a crime against humanity.
But I have a problem with all this. George
Bush says that "you are either for us or against us" in the war for civilisation
against evil. Well, I'm sure not for bin Laden. But I'm not for Bush.
I'm actively against the brutal, cynical, lying "war of civilisation" that
he has begun so mendaciously in our name and which has now cost as
many lives as the World Trade Centre mass murder.
At this moment, I can't help remembering
my dad. He was old enough to have fought in the First World War. In
the third Battle of Arras. And as great age overwhelmed him near the
end of the century, he raged against the waste and murder of the 1914-1918
war. When he died in 1992, I inherited the campaign medal of which
he was once so proud, proof that he had survived a war he had come
to hate and loathe and despise. On the back, it says: "The Great War for Civilisation." Maybe
I should send it to George Bush.
Errors That Led to Massacre
Guardian reveals blunders by
Luke Harding in Mazar-i-Sharif, Simon Tisdall
in Washington, Nicholas Watt and Richard Norton-Taylor
Saturday December 1, 2001
A single, horrific, atrocity can provide the defining
moment in a war. America is still facing demands to apologise for the
1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, and the remains of charred Iraqi soldiers
on the Mutla ridge outside Kuwait were a chilling illustration of Washington's
overwhelming firepower in the Gulf war.
As the net tightened around the Taliban leadership
yesterday, questions were being asked about whether the bloody end
to this week's prison siege at the 19th-century Qala-i-Jhangi fort
outside the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif will be the defining
moment of the Afghan war. Pictures of aid workers picking their way
through the corpses of Taliban prisoners killed by a combination of
Northern Alliance fighters and American bombings, have caused revulsion
around the world. At least 175 prisoners were killed; that is the number
of bodies recovered so far by the Red Cross.
As pressure grows on Britain and the US to hold
an inquiry into the killings, the Guardian has pieced together a detailed
account of this week's events. This suggests that from the very first,
when Taliban soldiers fell into the hands of the alliance after the
fall of Kunduz, a series of catastrophic errors were made.
In an interview with the Guardian yesterday, the
anti-Taliban commander who negotiated the surrender said that things
had gone wrong largely because of American miscalculation. Amir Jan,
a Pashtun commander who defected to the anti-Taliban forces earlier
this year, said that the foreign Taliban fighters from Kunduz - mainly
Arabs, Pakistanis and men from Uzbekistan - were never supposed to
go for their formal surrender to Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan's main
The foreigners were meant to surrender at Erganak,
a mountainous frontline position 12 miles west of Kunduz. Instead,
they travelled across the desert through the night and arrived on the
outskirts of Mazar, in a wilderness of desert and telegraph poles,
at 3am last Saturday.
Mullah Faizal, the Taliban's commander at Kunduz,
had told the foreign fighters to give up their weapons - but failed
to tell them that they would then be taken into custody, it emerged
from Amir Jan's account: "The foreigners thought that after surrendering
to the Northern Alliance they would be free," he said. "They
didn't think they would be put in jail."
While US soldiers dressed in desert khaki set
up satellite links, soldiers loyal to the alliance warlord Rashid Dostam
took up attack positions. After three to four hours' negotiation, the
Taliban fighters agreed to surrender again - but only to Amir Jan,
whom they trusted because of his Pashtun roots and Taliban history.
General Dostam's militia then began disarming the Taliban fighters
and piling their weapons into a green lorry.
Gen Dostam had arranged to take the prisoners
to Mazar-i-Sharif's large Soviet-built airfield, but American special
forces vetoed the plan, saying that the runway could be needed for
military operations, Amir Jan revealed.
Instead, Gen Dostam would take the prisoners to
his personal fortress on the muddy outskirts of Mazar - the Qala-i-Jhangi.
Over the previous two weeks several American officers had secretly
spent many hours in the compound. They knew it was full of heavy weaponry.
Nonetheless, they agreed with the impromptu Dostam
scheme. By mid-afternoon, the prisoners had been piled into five trucks.
Said Kamal, Gen Dostam's head of security, arranged for prisoners in
the first three trucks to be body searched. But with dusk approaching,
the convoy set off with the last two trucks not searched. This proved
to be disastrous.
While Gen Dostam left with the bulk of his army
towards Kunduz, the convoy rolled the other way into the Qala-i-Jhangi,
where a comparatively small number of guards had been left behind.
Nader Ali, Gen Dostam's chief of police, tried again tosearch the prisoners
soon after they arrived in late afternoon. One Taliban fighter about
to be frisked detonated a hidden grenade killing himself, Ali and another
While the dying Ali was carried away, soldiers
then bundled the Taliban fighters into the stable area to the north
of the compound. The search was abandoned.
That night eight of the fighters blew themselves
up in a storage room in the prisoners' compound, Amir Jan said. It
soon became clear that a large minority of the Taliban were still armed
with grenades. "After that I decided they were hardliners, that
they were dangerous,"
the Pashtun commander added. "We agreed it would be better to tie
up their hands and put them in the basement."
Next morning the guards prepared to implement
this new order. At the same time Simon Brooks, head of the International
Committee for the Red Cross in northern Afghanistan, swept into the
Qala-i-Jhangi in his white Red Cross vehicle. He was looking for assurances
from Said Kamal, the Dostam security chief, that the prisoners would
be treated humanely. The Red Cross also wanted to register the prisoners'
names and get messages for their families. Mr Brooks was not the only
person interested in the Arab, Pakistani and Chechen detainees.
Two CIA agents, Johnny "Mike" Spann
"Dave", had also been instructed to screen the Taliban fighters
for possible links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organisation. From
a distance Dave looked Afghan. He even spoke Uzbek, the language of Gen
Dostam's soldiers, and wore a salwar kameez beneath a long coat. But
his square-cropped haircut gave the game away, indicating he was American.
Two television crews - from Reuters and the German
station ARD - had also turned up at the fort. They were in the prisoners'
compound, together with Dave and Mike, who had begun interviewing suspects.
At 11.25am the Taliban fighters were marched to
the central grassy compound of their mini-citadel. The guards tied
up the first eight prisoners, Amir Jan said. "The prisoners suspected
they were about to be shot. They attacked one of the guards and grabbed
his gun," he added. The foreign fighters also assumed that the
television journalists were American soldiers who had come to film
Another prisoner grabbed Mike and set off a grenade,
blowing him up. This conflicts with the CIA account of his death which
says that he was shot.
All hell then broke loose: the prisoners shot
dead five guards and grabbed their weapons, while the journalists ran
for cover. Dave managed to escape only by shooting dead at least one
Taliban prisoner with his pistol. A firefight blew up between the prisoners,
now in charge of their own fortified area, and soldiers sitting in
Gen Dostam's headquarters building 300 metres away, down a line of
"Dave managed to reach the rooftop [of Dostam's
HQ] about 15 minutes after fighting broke out," Simon Brooks of
the Red Cross said yesterday. "One of the Taliban who had obviously
been wired with explosives simply grabbed the other American and the
"I met Dave in the building. He was absolutely
completely shocked and really quite scared. I can now understand why:
he witnessed his friend being blown up. He had managed to shoot his
way out and run 150 metres out of the building."
Soon the firefight had developed into a battle,
as the Taliban prisoners broke into the arms depot and helped themselves
to mortars and rocket launchers. From the rooftop, Dave borrowed a
satellite phone from the German TV crew and phoned the American embassy
"We have lost control of the situation. Send
in helicopters and troops," he said.
The call appeared to work. As the Red Cross vehicle
blazed in the car park, and Mr Brooks slithered down the mud battlements
to safety, the Pentagon prepared to send in the air force. Most of
the eight prisoners who had been tied up when the battle broke out
were shot dead in the early minutes; the others were able to take cover.
At 3.30pm the jets sent by the Pentagon fired
nine or 10 missiles directly into the Taliban's positions. All of them
hit their target - apart from the last one, which sank into a field
more than 1km away. In the confusion, a small group of at least 10
The following day the remaining Taliban, some
armed with rocket launchers, held out as B-52 bombers flew repeatedly
overhead. Alarmed by the resilience of the Taliban fighters, further
special forces arrived at the base on Tuesday. They reportedly advised
the alliance to flush out the remaining Taliban by pouring oil into
the basement and setting fire to it. It took a tank and an intensification
of bombings from the air to finish them off.
Confident that the way was clear, the alliance
regained control of the fortress on Wednesday. But on Thursday it emerged
that a lone Talib was still holed up in a basement, surviving on horse
High above the lone survivor, the imposing figure
of Gen Dostam toured the fortress where the full horror of the siege
was on display. An Associated Press photographer saw the bodies of
up to 50 Taliban fighters whose hands had been bound by scarves, laid
out in a field in the southern part of the fort. The photographer watched
as alliance fighters cut the scarves from the hands of some of the
corpses; at least one picked gold fillings from a corpse.
As Washington tried to wash its hands of the episode,
saying that the alliance was responsible for the prisoners, human rights
lawyers warned that the Geneva convention may have been breached on
two counts: the degrading treatment of the Taliban, when they were
tied up, and the huge firepower directed at them by US warplanes.
On the first count, article 13 of the convention
says: "Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated." On
the second count, the convention permits the use of force against prisoners.
But it says that this must be proportionate.
Christopher Greenwood, professor of international
relations at the London School of Economics and joint editor of International
Law Reports, said that killing people with hands tied behind their
backs was illegal. "If it was heavy-handed overreaction, it was
illegal", he said.
There were also questions about the conduct of
the two CIA officers. Adam Roberts, professor of international relations
at Oxford University and an authority on the laws of war, described
their conduct as "incredibly stupid and unprofessional".
Angered by the death of Spann - the first American
known to have died in the conflict - the director of the CIA, George
Tenet, accused the Taliban of premeditated murder.
"Their prison uprising - which had murder
as its goal - claimed many lives, among them that of a very brave American,"
he said of Spann, who worked in the directorate of operations, which
analysts says is involved in "paramilitary" activities.
As the final bodies are cleared, the battle has
now moved to Britain and America, whose governments have rejected calls
by Amnesty International for an inquiry. Amnesty said yesterday that
this raised questions about their commitment to the rule of law.
A head of steam is unlikely to build up around
this issue, however. At his weekly appearance in the Commons this week,
Tony Blair faced only one question about Afghanistan and that was about
Marjan, the one-eyed lion at Kabul zoo.
Why? Amnesty's 10 questions
· Why were the Taliban not properly disarmed?
· Was the response of the detaining powers
proportionate? Was only minimum force used, as required by the Geneva
· Who ordered planes in and why?
· Could this situation have been contained
without such use of force?
· Were those who were killed still bound?
· Did summary executions take place?
· Were people deliberately left in harm's
· Are those who desecrated bodies to be
· Are summary executions still taking place
· Are there serious shortcomings in the
holding of prisoners in Afghanistan? Is the alliance able to perform
Afghan War Documentary Charges US With
Mass Killings of POWs
Showings in Europe spark demands for war crimes probe
By Stefan Steinberg, 17 June 2002
A documentary film, Massacre in Mazar, by Irish
director Jamie Doran, was shown to selected audiences in Europe last
week, provoking demands for an international inquiry into US war crimes
The film alleges that American troops collaborated in
the torture of POWs and the killing of thousands of captured Taliban
soldiers near the town of Mazar-i-Sharif. It documents events following
the November 21, 2001 fall of Konduz, the Taliban's last stronghold in
Massacre in Mazar then goes to describe the
treatment meted out to the remaining thousands of captives who had surrendered
to the Northern Alliance and American troops. A further 3,000 prisoners
were separated out from the total of 8,000 who had surrendered, and were
transported to a prison compound in the town of Shibarghan.
They were shipped to Shibarghan in closed containers,
lacking any ventilation. Local Afghan truck drivers were commandeered
to transport between 200 and 300 prisoners in each container. One of
the drivers participating in the convoy relates that an average of between
150 and 160 died in each container in the course of the trip.
An Afghan soldier who accompanied the convoy said he
was ordered by an American commander to fire shots into the containers
to provide air, although he knew that he would certainly hit those inside.
An Afghan taxi driver reports seeing a number of containers with blood
streaming from their floors.
Another witness relates that many of the 3,000 prisoners
were not combatants, and some had been arrested by US soldiers and their
allies and added to the group for the mere crime of speaking Pashto,
a local dialect. Afghan soldiers testify that upon arriving at the prison
camp at Shibarghan, surviving POWs were subjected to torture and a number
were arbitrarily killed by American troops.
One Afghan, shown in battle fatigues,
says of the treatment of prisoners in the Shibarghan camp: “I
was a witness when an American soldier broke one prisoner's neck and
poured acid on others. The Americans did whatever they wanted. We had
no power to stop them.”
Another Afghan soldier states, “They
cut off fingers, they cut tongues, they cut their hair and cut their
beards. Sometimes they did it for pleasure; they took the prisoners
outside and beat them up and then returned them to the prison. But
sometimes they were never returned and they disappeared, the prisoner
disappeared. I was there.”
Another Afghan witness alleges that, in order to avoid
detection by satellite cameras, American officers demanded the drivers
take their containers full of dead and living victims to a spot in the
desert and dump them. Two of the Afghan civilian truck drivers confirm
that they witnessed the dumping of an estimated 3,000 prisoners in the
According to one of the drivers, while 30 to 40 American
soldiers stood by, those prisoners still living were shot and left in
the desert to be eaten by dogs. The final harrowing scenes of the film
feature a panorama of bones, skulls and pieces of clothing littering
evidence of US war crimes in Afghanistan: Taliban POWs suffocated inside
[13 December 2001]
Convention and the US massacre of POWs in Afghanistan
[7 December 2001]
massacre of Taliban POWs: the stench of death and more media lies
[29 November 2001]
against Taliban POWs: Whatever happened to the Geneva Convention?
[28 November 2001]
US war crime
in Afghanistan: Hundreds of prisoners of war slaughtered at Mazar-i-Sharif
[27 November 2001]
US war crime
at Mazar-i-Sharif prison: new videotape evidence
[11 December 2001]
of POWs held in appalling conditions in Afghanistan
[8 January 2002]
Report Details Abuse, Torture
of Prisoners by US forces in Afghanistan
By Joseph Kay, 10 March 2004
Email the author
A report released over the weekend by
Human Rights Watch, entitled “Enduring Freedom: Abuses by US Forces in Afghanistan,” details
illegal and abusive treatment meted out by US troops against prisoners
captured as part of the American government's ongoing operations in
Afghanistan. The report examines cases of indiscriminate and excessive
use of force, arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions, and mistreatment
in detention, including torture.
The report underscores the absurdity of US claims that
in invading the country it was liberating the Afghan people and creating
a democracy. Not only is Afghanistan ruled by a US stooge regime in alliance
with warlords, but the US military force, numbering over 10,000, operates
with impunity and contempt for international law and complete disregard
for the democratic rights of the country's population.
The report, available at the Human Rights Watch web site, www.hrw.org ,
summarizes previously reported cases of mistreatment and presents new
evidence based upon interviews with Afghans who have been released from
US detention. Access to those currently held by the US or under the control
of Afghan forces allied with the US is severely restricted.
The most serious charges concern the treatment of those
captured by US forces, including both combatants and civilians. Human
Rights Watch estimates that since 2002 over 1,000 individuals have been
arrested, many having been subsequently released. These individuals describe
conditions of intense mental and physical duress that constitute torture
according to internationally accepted standards and the United States'
own statements condemning similar practices carried out by other governments.
Human Rights Watch cites two men who report
that during the period of their detention at the main American detention
facility at the Bagram airbase, “bright lights were set up outside
their cells, shining in, and US military personnel took shifts keeping
the detainees awake by banging on the metal walls of their cells with
batons. The detainees said they were terrified and disoriented by sleep
deprivation, which they said lasted for several weeks.”
Also quoted is a Pakistani fighter with
the Taliban who was detained by US troops at the Kandahar airport in
early 2002. He describes being shackled and beaten by US troops during
the course of his flight to the detention facility. All of the captives
on the plane were forced to sit in painful positions. “If we fell to the side or moved,” the
individual is quoted as saying, “the armed men standing over
our heads would beat us mercilessly with their army boots, kicking
us in our back and kidneys. We were all beaten, without exception.”
According to the individual, these practices
continued during the period of detention. “When we were in Kandahar,
we were not allowed to talk with each other and if we did, we were
beaten and we were not allowed to sleep. For instance, if we were sleeping
we were woken up, or if we were covering our head with our bed cover
we were beaten strongly.”
The statements of these and other prisoners
interviewed by Human Rights Watch are corroborated by previous reports
and by the statements of US military officials. In March 2003, Roger
King, a US military spokesman at the Bagram facility, acknowledged, “We
do force people to stand for an extended period of time...Disruption
of sleep has been reported as an effective way of reducing people's
inhibition about talking or their resistance to questioning.”
Previous reports indicate that the methods of constant
shackling, sleep deprivation and prolonged standing are common techniques
employed by US forces at Bagram. Beatings may be more common at other
The HRW report states that after a January
2002 raid by US troops, 20 individuals were captured and taken to Kandahar. “Several
of these detainees said that they were kicked and punched repeatedly
by US forces after they arrived, and suffered broken bones that went
untreated...Among these beaten was an elderly man, who had his hand
Conditions may be even worse at prisons run by Afghans
allied with the US, including a facility with hundreds of prisoners run
by the notorious warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a member of the
government of Hamid Karzai.
With US complicity, Dostum's forces were
responsible for the massacre of thousands of Taliban prisoners at Mazar-i-Sharif
at the end of the war. The report quotes a human rights monitor who
has visited prisoners under Dostum's control as noting that severe
beatings are an “ordinary thing.” These Afghan prisons
cannot be separated from those run by the US. American military and
CIA officials have routine access to these detainees, most of whom
have been captured in joint operations with the US.
The report notes that such treatment is in violation
of international humanitarian and human rights law. The Geneva Conventions
prohibit torture and cruel treatment, whether physical or mental. Prolonged
shackling has been termed torture by the United Nations secretary general.
The US State Department has categorized prolonged sleep deprivation as
torture in its reports on human rights abuses by other countries.
In addition to torture, Afghans are subject to the classic
conditions of a military state: arbitrary and indefinite detention with
no recourse or legal rights. US forces often use excessive force in arresting
individuals, resulting in casualties and property destruction.
The report details the case of one individual, Ahmed
Khan, whose home was raided in late July 2002. American troops bombarded
his house, where he lived with his wife and children, using massive firepower,
although there were no signs of resistance from Khan or anyone else.
According to Khan, helicopters fired on
the house with machine guns, shattering windows and doors, after which
troops stormed the house. “They broke all the windows, and tore the doors off
cupboards, and shot open the boxes,” apparently looking for weapons.
One individual—a neighboring farmer and father of four—was
killed during the operation, and another was wounded. A UN staff person
reported seeing the area littered with spent shells, all from American
Khan alleges that during or after the raid many of his
possessions were stolen, either by American troops or Afghans allied
with the Americans.
Other cases involve a similar pattern
of massive American force against those suspected of possessing weapons
or having ties to Taliban forces. The report points to well documented
instances, including an attack by US forces in December 2003. The bombing
campaign in a residential neighborhood resulted in the death of eight
civilians, including six children.
Some of those detained are subsequently released after
American troops determine they have no relevant knowledge. Those who
remain in the detention facilities are denied basic democratic rights
and due process.
“Ordinary civilians caught up in the military operations
and arrested are left in a hopeless situation,” writes Human Rights
Watch. “Once in custody, they have no way of challenging the
legal basis for their detention or obtaining a hearing before an adjudicative
body. They have no access to legal counsel. Their release is wholly
dependent on the decision of the US military command, with little apparent
regard for the requirements of international law or the due process
requirements of human rights law.”
All the prisoners are being held as “unlawful combatants,” a
category the US has devised to maintain that the prisoners are not
protected by the Geneva Conventions.
The US military has arrogated to itself
the right to “disappear” Afghans
without any accountability. The report points to the case of one individual,
Abdul Gehafouz Akhundzada, who was arrested in February 2003. “After
the arrest...Akhundzada was taken away in a helicopter, presumably
to Bagram airbase, but his family was not informed of the location
or reason for his arrest over the following months. As of late 2003,
there was no response to appeals made through local government officials
to both the US and the Afghan authorities for an explanation as to
The Human Rights Watch report has been released amidst
signs of growing social tensions in Afghanistan. With the US carrying
out a large-scale military campaign in the south of the country with
the aim of capturing Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders, there
is no doubt that the anti-democratic methods employed by American forces
will continue and intensify.
forces kill 11 more civilians in Afghanistan
[20 January 2004]
Report documents violence and repression by US-backed warlords
[2 August 2003]
confirm US role in massacre of Taliban prisoners
[17 March 2003]