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The Rights of Prisoners Must be Protected


In a country struggling with war and insurgency, a weak judicial system and mismanaged security forces would result to violation of laws of the country and rights of the people, whether free citizens or enemy prisoners. Perhaps Afghanistan is at this stage of its post-Taliban history. A government-appointed inquiry panel tasked for probing torture of prisoners confirmed that prisoners have been tortured in several jails across the country. Led by Abdul Qadir Adalat Khwah, deputy head of Independent Commission for Oversight of the Implementation of the Constitution” (ICOIC), the panel reported that half of the prisoners interviewed by the panel, complained of being tortured.

This inquiry confirmed an earlier report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) that said there were widespread torture and abusive conducts in Afghan prisons. At the time, the Afghan officials rejected the report as unfounded. These reports have raised broad concerns about Afghanistan’s capacity for management of prisons and handover of the US-controlled prisons. After the UN report, the US forces stopped the process of handing over prisons to Afghan control.

Obviously, the prisoners have rights based on laws, while the government and judicial system is obliged to preserve and defend their rights. According to the much-revered constitution, any information obtained by torture is not credible but rather it is against the law. Perhaps there are wide variety of mismanagement of prisons and security agencies that result to torture and misconducts. On the other hand, because of low capacity of Afghanistan’s judicial system, the process of trying the prisoners is inefficient and flawed. In absence of a proper judicial process, the rights of prisoners can never protected by law.

Regrettably, the Afghan society has adopted the culture of violence and torture as it is suffering from violence. This must be changed. It can be change only by rule of law and order with strict monitoring by the relevant agencies on prisons, security personnel and the officials.

The government of Afghanistan has been criticized about its conduct of prisoners. In the past, it released hundreds of Taliban prisoners in a gesture of good-will to the Taliban who are asked to come to the negotiation table. The arbitrary release of Taliban prisoners met harsh criticisms by opposition groups and civil society organizations.

In the meantime, the ‘widespread tortures’ in prisons are partly due to misuse of authorities and mid-level officials of their positions and power against the detainees considered as enemy combatants. According to the report, most of the cases of torture occur at time when the security forces arrest the suspects in war zones and the cities. This perhaps is indication the puzzle of war, security and justice which bring conflicts at periods of war and uncertainty. The government is the main body that must ensure the rights of prisoners, at peace and wartimes.

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