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Report: U.S. Knew Of Abuse In Afghan Prisons Before U.N. Report

Over the weekend The Washington Post ran a long investigative story in which unnamed officials claim the United States knew that detainees in Afghan intelligence prisons were being abused. The U.S., the Post reports, knew about the abuse long before the United Nations issued a report earlier this month that said suspected Taliban fighters were tortured.

"Torture methods included suspending people by their wrists, beating the soles of the feet, electric shocks, twisting detainees' genitals and removing toe nails,"the AP reported.

What the Post found is that the U.S. was warned about the conditions, yet continued to ship detainees to a facility known as Department 124. Others countries, alerted to the problems had stopped sending detainees to the facility.

The Post reports:

U.S. Special Operations troops delivered detainees to Department 124. CIA officials regularly visited the facility, which was rebuilt last year with American money, to interrogate high-level Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects, according to Afghan and Western officials familiar with the site. Afghan intelligence officials said Americans never participated in the torture but should have known about it.

When the United Nations on Aug. 30 brought allegations of widespread detainee abuse to Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. military commander here, he took swift action ahead of the public release of the findings. Coalition troops stopped transferring detainees to Department 124 and 15 other police and intelligence agency prisons. They also hastily began a program to monitor those facilities and conduct human rights classes for interrogators.

But the prospect that U.S. officials failed to act on prior warnings raises questions about their compliance with a law, known as the Leahy Amendment, that prohibits the United States from funding units of foreign security forces when there is credible evidence that they have committed human rights abuses.

The Post story is long and worth a read, so we encourage you to click over. The U.S. is denying that ignored credible warning of abuse. The Post reports:

"Anyplace that we've had a concern in the past, we've taken the appropriate steps, I'm confident of that, and we're taking the appropriate steps now," Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in an interview. "I don't see it as a systemic problem, as some have said it might be."

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the United States has a "long-standing policy against transferring individuals to torture" and that "whenever allegations of human rights violations are raised with us, we move quickly to work with the host government to investigate and resolve them."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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