Nearly a third of Afghan detainees tortured in security cases - U.N.

FILE PHOTO: An Afghan policeman keeps watch near the site of an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo

KABUL (Reuters) - Nearly a third of people held by Afghan authorities for suspected security and terrorism-related offences are subject to torture or mistreatment in detention centres, a United Nations report said on Wednesday.

The report, released jointly by the U.N. mission to Afghanistan and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, concluded that the percentage of detainees who had been tortured had fallen slightly over the 15 months to March 2020 to 30.3% from 31.9% in the previous two years, but remained “alarming”.

The Afghan government did not immediately respond to multiple calls seeking comment.

“Torture can never be justified. It has lasting consequences for victims, their families and society,” Deborah Lyons, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said in the report.

Militant violence has resurged around the country even as peace talks proceed with the insurgent Taliban in Qatar. The Afghan government is under pressure to stem a wave of targeted killings that occur almost daily which they and some foreign players have blamed on the Taliban, who deny responsibility.

On Wednesday a blast in Kabul killed a police officer, and unknown attackers killed a religious leader in the southern city of Kandahar and a judge in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Efforts have been made by some government institutions to halt the use of torture, the U.N. report said but added much more was needed to bring it to an end, including improving training for law enforcement agencies.

The report was based on interviews with 656 detainees held in 63 facilities in 24 provinces across the country between Jan. 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020 when interviews had to stop because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The report said it could not assess the treatment of prisoners held by the Taliban and other anti-government groups as investigators lacked access to their facilities.

Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul, Ahmad Sultan in Nangarhar and Sarwar Amani in Kandahar; Editing by Mark Heinrich