troops in Afghanistan are operating outside
the rule of law, using excessive force to
make arrests, mistreating detainees and holding
them indefinitely in a "legal black hole"
without any legal safeguards, a report published
today says. Having gone to war to combat terrorism
and remove the oppressive Taliban regime,
the United States is now undermining efforts
to restore the rule of law and endangering
the lives of civilians, Human Rights Watch
military forces have repeatedly used deadly
force from helicopter gunships and small and
heavy arms fire during "what are essentially
law-enforcement operations" to arrest suspected
criminals in residential areas where there
is no military conflict, the report says.
use of these tactics has resulted in avoidable
civilian deaths and injuries, and in individual
cases may amount to violations of international
acknowledges that the Americans are opposed
by armed groups which pay little heed to humanitarian
law or human rights.
the activities of these groups are no excuse
for US violations. Abuses by one party to
a conflict, no matter how egregious, do not
justify violations by the other side."
report cites complaints collected by a UN
official of "cowboy-like" tactics against
people "who generally turn out to be law-abiding
citizens". They include blowing doors open
with grenades rather than knocking.
one instance helicopters attacked the home
of Ahmed Khan and his family in the Zurmat
district in Paktia province, an area firmly
under the control of Afghan forces at the
were lying in bed," Mr Khan told HRW. "Suddenly,
there was a lot of noise. Some helicopters
came, we could hear them circling and firing
machine guns ... they rocketed a hole through
Americans forced their way in and rounded
up the family.
they searched the house. They broke all the
windows, and tore the doors off cupboards,
and shot open the boxes, and turned them over,"
Mr Khan said.
extent of damage to neighbouring homes showed
that they "used considerable firepower even
though there was no evidence of any armed
opposition," the report says.
farmer in the fields nearby was shot dead
and a woman in one of the houses was injured.
blame many raids on malicious tip-offs by
other Afghans using the US as an unwitting
proxy in local quarrels or as a means of extorting
money, the report says.
Rights Watch is also concerned about the treatment
of those arrested.
United States is setting a terrible example
in Afghanistan on detention practices," said
Brad Adams, executive director of the organisation's
are being held in a legal black hole with
no tribunals, no legal counsel, no family
visits and no basic legal protections."
US holds detainees at its Bagram, Kandahar,
Jalalabad and Asadabad bases, where there
have been complaints of their being severely
beaten, doused with cold water, forced to
stay awake or made to stand or kneel in painful
positions for long periods.
is compelling evidence suggesting that US
personnel have committed acts against detainees
amounting to torture or cruel, inhumane, or
degrading treatment," Mr Adams said.
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