U.N. torture committee wants Afghan general prosecuted

GENEVA (Reuters) - The police chief of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, General Abdul Raziq, should be prosecuted over allegations of torture and enforced disappearances, the U.N. Committee against Torture said on Friday.

The committee said it was deeply concerned at numerous reports brought to its attention about the situation in Kandahar, including the use of torture methods such as suffocation, crushing the testicles, pumping water into the stomach and administering electric shocks.

Raziq denied all the allegations.

The U.N. body said the Afghan National Police (ANP) in the province was allegedly responsible for incommunicado detention, enforced disappearances, mass arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings during counter-insurgency operations.

“The Committee is particularly concerned at the numerous and credible allegations indicating General Abdul Raziq, ANP Commander in Kandahar, as being widely suspected of complicity, if not of personal implication, in severe human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and settlement of secret detention centers,” the committee’s report said.

Asked if Raziq, whose name is also anglicized as Razeq, had conducted interrogations personally, the committee’s chairman Jens Modvig said: “There are reports that he has been directly involved, yes.”

Raziq rejected any allegation that he had been involved in torturing prisoners.

“First of all I don’t have private jails and secondly the government-run prisons are inspected by the International Committee of the Red Cross and other human rights organizations on regular bases,” Raziq told Reuters.

“I strongly reject such claims and they are made to defame me. If anyone or any entity have any proof, they should present it but I am sure there is none,” he added.

In January this year Raziq narrowly escaped injury when a bomb hidden under sofas in the Kandahar governor’s residence went off while officials were having dinner, killing 13 people.

At the time he accused Pakistan’s intelligence services and the Haqqani network, a militant group linked to the Taliban, of being behind the explosion.

Last year Raziq, a feared commander known as a ruthless enemy of the Taliban, led reinforcements, supported by U.S. air strikes, to help repel an attack by Taliban militants in neighboring Uruzgan province.

A U.N. report last month said torture and mistreatment of detainees by Afghan security forces was as widespread as ever, despite promises by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and new laws enacted by the government.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague is conducting a separate review of torture in Afghanistan.

Modvig told a news conference in Geneva that he was not aware of any attempt to bring Raziq to justice.

“I think it’s a matter for the prosecution authorities in Afghanistan first and foremost and of course it could end up in other places. But we would expect that the local prosecution authorities, the attorney general, would react to such reports, provided they are handed in to him.”

The committee called on Afghanistan to make sure all allegations were investigated promptly, thoroughly and impartially, and that Raziq and other alleged perpetrators were prosecuted.

Nobody at the Afghan diplomatic mission in Geneva was immediately available to comment on the committee’s report.

Reporting by Tom Miles, additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Afghanistan; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Toby Chopra