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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 21:30 GMT 22:30 UK
Afghan concern over Iraq abuses
By Andrew North
BBC Kabul Correspondent

Afghanistan's leading human rights body is demanding to carry out checks on detainees in US custody in the country, following revelations of the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American forces.

Amid concerns that similar abuses could be occurring here, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission says it has sent a letter to the commander of US-led coalition forces, General David Barno.

A hooded and wired Iraqi prisoner is seen at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq in this undated photo. (AP Photo/Courtesy of The New Yorker)
Photos from Iraq have raised concerns worldwide (AP/Courtesy The New Yorker)
It is asking for access to all Afghan detainees in American detention

At least 300 people, the majority of them Afghans, are believed to be held at the main US base at Bagram, north of Kabul, and an unknown number at other sites.

Concerns about US treatment of detainees in Afghanistan have been raised before, but the flood of images from Iraq is putting renewed focus on their actions.

Both the human rights commission in Kabul and New York-based Human Rights Watch have asked for access to detainees before, but their requests have been turned down.

Photographs of American soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees have been seen widely in Afghanistan, even in more remote areas because of wider access to satellite television.

Newspapers have weighed in too, with editorials demanding investigations into whether US forces have been behaving in a similar way in Afghanistan.

The pictures have "shocked many people", says Ahmad Zia Langari, of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.

And because the Americans "do not give us any access", people may think the same abuses are happening here, he says.

"Relatives of detainees [who are] with the Americans will be especially concerned," he says.

That is why he says his organisation sent its letter to General Barno on Sunday. A copy also went to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, along with a request that the government support the commission's demand.

Human rights concerns

Until now, no outside body has had access to the Bagram detention centre or any other US facility, except the International Committee of the Red Cross. But its reports are kept confidential.

In March, a Human Rights Watch report said the US detention system in Afghanistan violated international law.

It said the US military had still to "explain adequately" the deaths of three detainees in American custody. Two deaths at Bagram airbase were ruled as homicides by US military doctors.

There has been no response to the Afghan human rights commission's letter so far. But asked about the abuses in Iraq on Saturday, a US military spokesman in Kabul said the US treated its prisoners in Afghanistan "humanely".

However, Mr Langari says, it is in the US military's interests to accept the commission's demand.

Any suspicions that US troops might be mistreating people will be used against the US by extremists, he warns.

"They will say 'look they come like Russians, to invade Afghanistan, they are not coming to help Afghanistan'," Mr Langari says.


SEE ALSO:
Iraq abuse allegations multiply
10 May 04  |  Middle East
In pictures: Iraqi prisoner abuse
10 May 04  |  In Pictures
Red Cross details abuse claims
10 May 04  |  Americas
Iraqi inmate: 'Treated like dogs'
06 May 04  |  Americas
Bush asks for $25bn for war costs
05 May 04  |  Americas
Many abuse inquiries under way
06 May 04  |  Middle East


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