What to do about torture in Afghanistan?

A devastating report published by the U.N. on Monday shows widespread torture methods have been used by the Afghan intelligence service against detainees held in camps in the war-torn country. The report highlights that methods including beatings, twisting of genitals, and hanging people by their hands have been used to gain information from prisoners in the country. According to the New York Times, the information, released in draft form several months ago, was apparently discouraging enough to convince NATO to stop sending terrorist suspects to Afghan intelligence. The report raises many questions about the proper response to torture claims, as well as questions about whether the United States pulling out of Afghanistan is the proper move.

Perhaps more importantly, the claims once again elicit questions about the United State’s policies and practices for handling suspected terrorists. Just as memories of the Guantanamo Bay torture claims have begun to fade, the U.S. finds itself intertwined with a torture-riddled intelligence agency that it helps finance. Both the United States and Afghanistan are signatory countries to the Geneva Conventions, which help protect the safety and rights of detainees. According to the report and the article in the New York Times, however, the Afghan intelligence service has long used abusive methods to interrogate detainees. With this information, is it still acceptable for the United States to finance the Afghan agency?

Clearly a step towards the goal of returning control of Afghanistan to Afghans, it still seems unethical that the United States support a part of the government riddled with illegal torture. The director for human rights at the United Nations said that prosecution of the torturers is required, and yet those very torturers are paid in large part by the United States. This too prompts questions about how liable the U.S. is for the unlawful behavior. Should the United States be held accountable for the behaviors of an intelligence agency that it supports? Should we stop funding such an organization? Regardless of how the United States responds to the current claims, the allegations raise doubts about human rights protection in Afghanistan and what will happen when the United States officially relinquishes control. Certainly the U.S. does not want to place itself in a position to be remembered for setting up a corrupt protection agency that allows for the unsupervised torture of detainees.


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Filed under Human Rights, Middle East, U.S Foreign Policy, Uncategorized

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