Ashraf Ghani vows to defends the dignity of those who had been jailed in reminder of how impact of CIA interrogation programme still fuels anger
Picture shows the president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul on Wednesday. Photograph Massoud Hossaini/AP
The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has described detailed revelations of US torture as “shocking” and “inhumane”, and demanded to know how many Afghans had been debased in grim facilities inside their own country.
The recently elected leader promised to defend the dignity of those who had been jailed, and gave notice that from the start of next year no foreign organisation would have the right to detain or torture Afghans.
“This is a vicious cycle. When a person is tortured in an inhumane way, the reaction will be inhumane,” Ghani told a specially convened news conference in Kabul. “There can be no justification for these kinds of actions and inhumane torture in today’s world.”
His announcement was a reminder of how the impact of a programme that was shut down in 2008 is still felt in Afghanistan – and how news of abusive detention still fuels anger.
In part this is because it spawned a wider culture of abuse among other US security forces stationed in the country, human rights activists say, with reports of torture and extrajudicial killings by special forces as recently as last year.
“The important thing is how these [torture] techniques developed by these unprofessional psychologists spread,” said John Sifton, advocacy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, who spent years investigating abuses by US security forces.
“The timelines are very clear and show without a doubt that the techniques spread from the CIA to the military,” he said.
Some of the most gruesome torture detailed in the landmark Senate report took place in Afghanistan, site of half of the eight secret prisons detailed in the report. Three were probably in and around the capital Kabul, and one inside the Bagram airbase.
A disused brick factory, codenamed Cobalt in the report by the Senate’s intelligence committee, was particularly grim. One detainee died there of hypothermia, and a senior officer described a simple stay as “an enhanced interrogation technique”, agency-speak for torture.
The CIA kept such bad records that it was not possible to fix the exact number of men held, or their identities, and there is also a CIA photograph of a waterboard and watering can at the site, where the agency denies waterboarding took place. It has not been able to explain the images.
The public accounting of the intelligence agency excesses may help victims trying to seek redress, and prevent future use of coercive techniques, activists hope. But it does not tell the whole story of US brutality in Afghanistan.
There has also been terrible abuse in military prisons, which lie outside the remit of this study. In one of the best-documented cases, from 2002, a taxi driver from eastern Afghanistan died after being hung from his wrists, a beating which pulverised his lower legs and other mistreatment.
Sifton warned that there is a wider culture of abuse among the security services which allowed these military abuses, and still needs investigation, because the Senate report focuses only on the spy agency.
“I am very much worried that this report will close a chapter. That’s what the CIA want … We should not just be moving on,” he said.
“Historians have documented that torture as an instrument may start off in a walled-off unit, but almost invariably spreads like a virus through the security apparatus of the state.”
Publication of the report prompted a limited reaction in Afghanistan, where many citizens are inured to torture and abuse by years of civil war, in which no side has escaped accusations of committing war crimes against their own people.
“It’s not good to torture them like animals,” said Shah Agha Abdulzai, a 51-year-old driver in Kabul. “Tomorrow if the Americans leave Afghanistan, these Talibs who were tortured by Americans, if they come to power will take revenge on ordinary people … Both Americans and Taliban are killing poor Afghans. God help our people.”
Extensive past investigations into abuses in Afghanistan made it relatively easy to identify one site, and should make it possible to pin down the others. Less is known about “Detention Site Green”, the prison in Thailand.
The report may also have been less illuminating because so many details of the relationship between the US and Thailand have been redacted, Thai media suggested.
According to the Bangkok Post, then-PM Thaksin Shinawatra – who had proved himself a US ally by sending Thai troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan – was unaware of Site Green until after the facility had already begun operations.
It was the close relationship between the CIA and Thailand’s own intelligence officers that allowed the CIA to choose Thailand as the site of one of its “safehouses” — a claim the paper alleges can be found in the Senate’s unredacted – and unpublished – 6,700-page report.
Site Green was just one of a number of secret overseas prisons that housed alleged terror suspects, various media reports have alleged over the years.
Detainees included Abu Zubaydah, the CIA’s “guinea pig” who arrived after March 2002 and was soon being waterboarded twice a day, sometimes to the point of bubbles rising from his open mouth, or vomiting and blacking out.
In November 2002, Zubaydah was joined by Abd al-Nashiri, a Saudi national who the US claimed was one of al-Qaida’s “most skilled” coordinators. At Site Green, Nashiri was bound naked and allegedly threatened with sodomy, along with the rape and arrest of his family, according to the Rendition Project, a collaboration between academics at Kent and Kingston universities and the NGO Reprieve.
He too was waterboarded under greenlighted “enhanced interrogation techniques” until he was moved to another detention facility at the end of the year.
Thai officials have vehemently denied the existence of any secret detention facilities, despite the CIA confirming in 2009 that it had destroyed some 92 tapes of interviews with terror suspects that had been safeguarded somewhere in Thailand. Site Green was eventually shut down in late 2002, when it is believed a growing number of detainees required the CIA to move operations to Poland.
It’s not clear how many detainees the facility held at any one time or where they were moved to. Various sources believe Zubaydah and Nashiri were moved to Poland before both ended up in Guantánamo Bay, where they remain today.
In 2003, Thai authorities helped capture Riduan Isamuddin, alias Hambali, a senior member of the south-east Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, widely believed to be behind the 2002 Bali bombings and considered the CIA’s “number one target” in the region.
According to the report, “the capture of Hambali is one of the eight most frequently cited examples provided by the CIA as evidence for the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques”. But, the report concludes, “CIA records indicate that the intelligence that led to Hambali’s capture in Thailand was based on signals intelligence, a CIA source, and Thai investigative activities” – not information extracted by torture.
Source - http//www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/10/afghanistan-president-condemns-inhumane-cia-torture-report