Entries in torture (5)


Afghan President Hamid Karzai to US Special Ops: Get Out

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered all U.S. Special Forces out of two key provinces within two weeks, accusing Afghan units under their jurisdiction of being responsible for the torture, abuse, and disappearance of Afghan civilians.

The deadline was announced Sunday by Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi at a hastily convened press conference, and later repeated in a statement from the Presidential Palace.

The decision came after Karzai met Sunday with his National Security Council. According to the statement, during the meeting "it became clear that armed individuals belonging to U.S. Special Forces engaged in harassing, annoying, torturing, and even murdering innocent people."

A NATO spokesperson says they are aware of the allegations, but would not provide further comment.

U.S. Special Forces are known to conduct operations with Afghan units that are separate from the normal Afghan Army. Because these units are often directly recruited, trained and supported by U.S. Special Forces, they fall outside of Karzai's control.

Afghans have long complained of harassment and intimidation at the hands of these forces, some of whom are seen as former criminals and militia members out to settle petty vendettas against tribal enemies.

Karzai's allegations refer to two specific incidents: The disappearance of nine Afghan civilians following a Special Forces operation, and the death of a student who was taken away during a night raid and whose body was found two days later under a bridge with torture marks and his throat cut. The incidents are believed to have occurred recently.

Wardak lies just to the west of Kabul and Logar to the south. Both provinces are considered key gateways to the city of Kabul.

In addition to the two-week deadline for all U.S. Special Forces to leave the two provinces, Karzai also ordered an immediate halt to all U.S. Special Operations activities in Wardak province.

The move comes a week after Karzai lashed out at coalition forces, ordering a ban on all airstrikes in residential areas. The ban came after several civilians were reportedly killed in an airstrike requested by Afghan forces.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Syria Has 27 Torture Centers: Report

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Syrian government has subjected tens of thousands of detained protesters, including women and children, to electroshock, sexual assault, mock executions and other forms of torture in 27 different torture centers across Syria, according to a human rights group.

In a report published Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the torture was widespread and systematic, with consistent methods used by four different security and intelligence agencies.

"The systematic patterns of ill-treatment and torture that Human Rights Watch documented clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity," HRW said. According to the United Nations, more than 10,000 Syrians have died since mass protests against the Assad regime began in March 2011.

The report includes a map that pinpoints the 27 torture centers, which are often prisons and police stations and are clustered around major cities like Damascus and Homs where protests have been most intense. HRW also provides sketches of alleged torture methods based on detailed accounts gathered from more than 200 interviews conducted since March 2011 with both former detainees and defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence forces who served at the torture centers.

"They forced me to undress. Then they started squeezing my fingers with pliers. They put staples in my fingers, chest, and ears. I was only allowed to take them out if I spoke," said a 31-year-old man who was detained in Idlib in June. "They used two wires hooked up to a car battery to give me electric shocks. They used electric stun-guns on my genitals twice. I thought I would never see my family again. They tortured me like this three times over three days.”

Other torture methods described in the report include hanging detainees from the ceiling and beating them with cables, whips and pipes and pulling out fingernails with pliers.

Former detainees who were interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported witnessing the death of other detainees while in custody, though the rights group has not been able to confirm independently the numbers of fatalities in detainment.

While the majority of those interviewed were men between the ages of 18 and 35, Nadim Houry, the deputy director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division, told ABC News the group also interviewed women, children and the elderly.

"I interviewed a child as young as 11 years old and a man over 70 who had been detained and tortured when security forces couldn't find his sons," said Houry.

Houry also said that activists from across Syria's religious communities, including the ruling Alawite minority, had reported being detained.

Anti-government protests have been raging across the country for over a year and have become increasingly violent over recent months. The Syrian authorities have maintained that they are battling foreign-funded terrorists while activists contend that they are fighting for freedom and democracy. The United Nations puts the death toll at over 10,000.

In its recommendations, the group calls on the United Nations Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, but in remarks to the press Monday, France's ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud, said there was still no agreement on such a referral.

"[I]t is very clear that we are very much in favor of referring Syria to the ICC. The problem is that it will have to be part of a global agreement of the Council and for the moment we have not yet reached this point," said Araud.

Russia, which has military and economic interests in Syria, has joined China in consistently blocking Security Council resolutions on Syria that call for robust action, preferring instead to back a ceasefire and political mediation led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that has yet to deliver lasting results.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


CIA Wanted 'Torture' Cage for Secret Prison: Official

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A Polish official says that prosecutors have a construction order that proves the CIA wanted a cage for terror suspects built at a secret 'black site' prison inside Poland.

Senator Jozef Pinior claims Krakow prosecutors have a document that shows a local contractor was asked to build a cage at Stare Kiekuty, a Polish army based used as a CIA prison for al Qaeda terror suspects in 2002 and 2003.

"In a state with rights," Pinior told the Polish paper Gazeta Wyborcza, "people in prison are not kept in cages." He said a cage was "non-standard equipment" for a prison, but standard "if torture was used there."

Asked if he was sure the cage was for humans, he said, "What was it for? Exotic birds?" He said he has not seen the construction order, but that the Krakow prosecutor's office, which is investigating the prison, has a copy of it.

This week Gazeta Wyborcza reported that the prosecutor's office also allegedly has a signed order from Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, the then-head of Polish intelligence, authorizing the creation of the black site. A source told the paper that the agreement has a space intended for an American signature, but that the Americans did not sign the document "because they do not want to sign documents inconsistent with their own Constitution and international law."

Siemiatkowski did not confirm or deny the existence of the agreement, but said he could not discuss anything he might have signed because it would be classified.

Gazeta Wyborcza reported in March that Siemiatkowski had been charged with permitting the corporal punishment of prisoners of war. Siematkowski has acknowledged publicly that he is under investigation.

Alexander Kwasniewski and Leszek Miller, who were president and prime minister at the time it was allegedly used as a CIA prison, have denied the existence of the Stare Kiekuty black site.  Sen. Pinior said he presented his evidence "with regret, because I always valued [Kwasniewski's] presidency."

Several terror suspects, including Abu Zubaydah, have said they were tortured at the Polish site prior to their relocation to Guantanamo. One suspect claims a gun and a power drill were pointed at his head during his interrogation.

After Poland launched its official investigation of the Stare Kiekuty site, President Bronislaw Komorowski said the probe was needed because "the reputation of Poland is at stake."

ABC News previously revealed the location of another CIA prison at a former riding academy outside Vilnius, Lithuania. In 2006, President Bush acknowledged that the U.S. had used "black site" prisons in foreign countries, and said many of the suspects who had been detained there were then moved to Guantanamo Bay. While denying that the U.S. employed torture, he said that the U.S. had used an "alternative set of procedures" to interrogate prisoners.

The CIA declined to comment to ABC News on the reported black site in Poland or on Senator Pinior's allegations about a cage.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


UN Alleges 'Systematic' Torture of Afghan Detainees

Dick Luria/Photodisc/Thinkstock(LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan) -- The Afghan security institutions to which the United States transfers detainees in Afghanistan are "systematically" torturing their prisoners, including children, according to a new United Nations report.

The report, compiled by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), is based on interviews with 379 pre-trial detainees and convicted prisoners at 47 different facilities run by the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the Afghan National Police (ANP) over the course of the last year. According to UNAMA, there was "compelling evidence" that nearly half of the detainees held in NDS facilities experienced enhanced interrogation that constituted torture.

"Detainees described experiencing torture in the forms of suspension (being hung by the wrists from chains or other devices attached to the wall, ceiling, iron bars or other fixtures for lengthy periods) and beatings, especially with rubber hoses, electric cables or wires from wooden sticks and most frequently on the soles of the feet," the report says. "Electric shock, twisting and wrenching of detainees' genitals, stress positions including forced standing, removal of toenails and threatened sexual abuse were among other forms of torture that detainees reported."

NDS officials conducted the torture repeatedly until some confession was obtained, the report says. UNAMA said that some children under the age of 18 were the victims of torture by the NDS.

As for the 117 people detained by the ANP and interviewed by UNAMA, another one-third claimed they had experienced either torture or other forms of cruel treatment while in detention.

However, UNAMA said that the torture, though systematic, did not appear to be "an institutional or Government policy" and said both the Afghan government and the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force responded positively to the report.

"The fact that the NDS and [the Ministry of Interior] cooperated with UNAMA's detention observation programme suggests that reform is both possible and desired, as does the Government's announced remedial actions to end these abusive practices," UNAMA head Staffan de Mistura said in a statement.

The U.N. said the Afghan authorities have launched their own investigations into the allegations. Early last month, ISAF ceased transferring detainees to 16 of the institutions identified by the UNAMA as potential torture facilities.

The U.N.'s Convention Against Torture prohibits signatories from transferring prisoners to another state "where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." The UNAMA survey found 89 detainees that had been captured either by or with the assistance of the ISAF and then had been transferred to either NDS or ANP custody -- 22 of whom later reported torture. Previously, American, British and Canadian forces had stopped transferring detainees to various Afghan facilities after reports of torture there, the U.N. said.

In a statement Monday the ISAF said it acknowledged the U.N. report and said UNAMA had shared information with them over the past month "enabling ISAF to work closely with the Government of Afghanistan and UNAMA on cooperative efforts to implement appropriate programs to improve detention operations and establish safeguards to prevent future mistreatment."

"ISAF remains committed to eliminating human rights violations in detainee operations, and will continue to work closely with the Government of Afghanistan and UNAMA on this issue," the statement said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egypt's Torture Victims Describe Beatings, Electroshock, Rape Threats

Photo Courtesy - Chris Hondros/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- When Abdel Haleem Halim approached Hosni Mubarak at a 2002 conference to confront the Egyptian president about rampant unemployment, he says he received a familiar response. Like many of Egypt's political dissidents, Halim says he was whisked away by the Mubarak regime's domestic intelligence agents and tortured.

"They would bring me a paper and want me to write and sign a confession," Halim told ABC News. "But I would refuse to write. So they would torture me because I was defiant."

Halim claimed that the SSI agents used beatings and electroshock, and that his 2002 encounter was only the latest in a long line of detentions. A veteran political dissident, he said an earlier beating left him with temporary memory loss.

Unlike some victims of the Egyptian government's security apparatus, however, Halim doesn't hold the U.S. responsible. Hossam el-Hamalawy, a 33-year-old journalist who says he was tortured by the SSI in 2000, is less forgiving.

"I can't accept that the U.S government preaches about democracy," said el-Hamalawy, "while at the same time supporting the Mubarak regime, which has been so brutal to its own people."

The U.S. State Department has joined international human rights groups in describing a culture of torture within Egyptian's security agencies, issuing a 2009 report in which it itemized alleged abuses ranging from electroshock to sodomy and said "officials often operated with impunity." Yet the U.S. government has also funded the Mubarak regime to the tune of more than a billion dollars per year, and since 1995 has used the Egyptians to interrogate terror suspects via extraordinary rendition outside the scrutiny of the U.S. legal system.

For the past 30 years, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, Egypt has used a continuous state of emergency, instituted after Anwar Sadat's assassination, to justify the suppression of political dissent in the name of security.

"Critics of the Egyptian authorities have faced arrest, detention, prosecution on trumped-up criminal charges and unfair trials," said Sahraoui, and relying on torture to extract information. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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