Human Rights Official Condemns U.S. for Torture in Afghanistan

October 31, 2004

On October 25, a leading U.N. human rights expert criticized the U.S. military forces in Afghanistan for violating international law by beating Afghans to death and forcing some to remove their clothes or wear hoods.

Cherif Bassiouni, a law professor at DePaul University in Chicago who is the U.N. Human Rights Commission's independent expert on human rights in Afghanistan, said in a report to the U.N. General Assembly:

"When they [U.S. troops] engage in practices that violate or ignore the norms of international human rights and international humanitarian law, they establish a double standard, enabling the continuation of abuses by various domestic actors," he said. While the U.S. justifies its practices as necessary to fighting the "war on terrorism," Bassiouni said, "many coalition activities undermine the goals of enhancing national compliance with international law...

He cited several examples of violations by U.S. or U.S.-led troops, including entering people's homes without warrants, detaining people without judicial authority, "beatings resulting in death,...forced nudity and public embarrassment, sleep deprivation, prolonged squatting, and hooding and sensory deprivation."

He said several incidents have been reported including possible criminal charges against up to 28 U.S. soldiers in connection with the deaths of two prisoners at an American-run prison in Afghanistan two years ago. He also spoke about other reports from international human rights organizations and the U.N. mission in Afghanistan regarding individuals who died in coalition custody. Some bodies were reportedly returned to their families "showing signs of torture, including bruises and internal bleeding from severe beatings and serious burn marks on victims' skin," he said.

Hundreds of detainees are being held "without legal process" under domestic or international law at detention facilities operated by the U. S. at Bagram, Kandahar and at other bases, he said.