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U.N.: Detainees tortured in Afghan-run prisons

KABUL, Afghanistan - Prisoners in some Afghan-run detention facilities have been beaten and tortured, a United Nations report said Monday, but the international organization said that the mistreatment was not the result of government policy.

The 74-page report found that detainees in 47 facilities in 24 provinces run by the Afghan National Police and the Directorate of Security suffered interrogation techniques that constituted torture under both international and Afghan law.

It said Afghan security ministries cooperated with the investigation and have taken measures to stop the abuse after being presented with the report.

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The NATO-led international military coalition, also known as ISAF, announced last month that it had stopped transferring detainees to 16 of the facilities. NATO was taking action to help fix the problem before resuming the transfers, the report said.

Drafted by the U.N.'s Afghan mission, known as UNAMA, the report was based on interviews of 379 detainees spread around the facilities and conducted from October 2010 to August 2011.

It "found the use of interrogation techniques that constitute torture under international law and crimes under Afghan law, as well as other forms of mistreatment."

The report said torture methods included suspending people by their wrists, beatings to the soles of their feet, electric shocks, twisting detainees' genitals, removing toe nails and being put in stress positions.

UNAMA said that the torture occurred for the purpose of obtaining information and confessions, which it said are often the sole form of evidence submitted in Afghan criminal trials. Judges often find such confessions "both persuasive and conclusive of the defendant's guilt."

Afghan authorities have taken steps to stop the abuse, UNAMA said.

The authorities "have stated clearly they have an action plan to address these concerns, started investigations, reassigned personnel in the case of the National Directorate of Security, and have further indicated that responsible individuals will be suspended from their positions and in serious cases, prosecuted," the report said.

The report was issued as part of a U.N. program to observe detention facilities.

"UNAMA's findings indicate that mistreatment is not an institutional or government policy," said Staffan de Mistura, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan.

He added that Afghan government cooperation "suggests that reform is both possible and desired as does the government's announced remedial actions to end these abusive practices."

The European Union also said it welcomed the Afghan government's commitment to stop abuse.

"The EU reiterates that all concerned parties must respect and guarantee the fundamental rights of all detainees, to eradicate all forms of torture and ill-treatment, to bring those responsible for such acts to justice and to adhere to and comply with the relevant international norms and standards," said Vygaudas Usackas, the head of the EU's delegation and its special representative to Afghanistan.

A report issued last month by the secretary general based on UNAMA research showed a spike in violence and an increase in civilian casualties. Coupled with Monday's report, it could cause the Obama administration to reexamine the progress of training of Afghan forces, reports CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk, from the United Nations.

"We take these accusations seriously," a French government spokesperson told Falk on condition of anonymity. "It is obviously a matter of concern, even if it is rogue behavior, since the report comes from the U.N., which is an impartial and trusted partner on the ground."

"Even though France does not capture prisoners in the Afghan battlefield - it is the Afghan forces who do - when France's NATO actions result in an individual being taken into custody, we have always ensured that NGOs have access to their detention," the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior said five Afghan civilians died in twin explosions Monday in the Dangam district of Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan.

A civilian vehicle struck a roadside bomb and when passers-by ran to assist the driver, another mine exploded, killing four and wounding two other people, the ministry said.

NATO also said one of its service members died in southern Afghanistan. It said an investigation was launched into the death to determine the circumstances. It provided no further details.

A total of seven NATO members have died in Afghanistan in October, and 461 since the start of the year.

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