KABUL (Reuters) - Former detainees at a secret U.S. prison in Afghanistan say jailers mistreated them by depriving them of natural light, failing to provide proper food and withholding Red Cross visits, a report said Thursday.
In the report by Open Society Foundations, established by billionaire George Soros, former Afghan detainees say they were abused at the classified detention center on Afghanistan’s U.S. Bagram airbase, north of Kabul.
The jail, the existence of which is not openly acknowledged by Washington, is separate from the main U.S. prison in Afghanistan, also at Bagram and now housed in a new $60 million complex that U.S. officials plan to hand over to Afghan control.
Bagram became a symbol of prisoner abuse after U.S. troops beat two prisoners to death there in 2002 in the first year of the 9-year-old war. Washington says treatment at all of its jails in Afghanistan is now in line with international law.
In the report, former detainees said they were held in isolation cells with inadequate bedding and food, restricted from exercise and prevented from carrying out religious duties, which the report says is against U.S. claims its detention rules meet international requirements.
“It appears this facility is either ignoring those rules or intepreting them so loosely that it makes detainees susceptible to mistreatment,” said Johnathan Horowitz, a rights expert who authored the report.
A spokeswoman for U.S. military detention operations said the International Committee of the Red Cross was aware of the temporary holding centers it operates and that all treatment complied with international and U.S. laws.
“The nature of warfare requires that the United States protect certain information from public disclosure in order to protect operational security,” Capt. Pamela Kunze said.
Earlier this year, there were around 1,000 prisoners held in foreign military detention centers in Afghanistan, more than 800 of them in the main jail at Bagram, originally set up in an old Soviet hangar and moved last year into the new complex.
Only recently have Afghan prisoners begun appearing before local judges and lawyers as the U.S. officials hand over control to Afghans.
Reporting by Patrick Markey; Editing by Peter Graff