U.S. Monitoring of Detainee Transfers in Afghanistan International Standards and Lessons from the UK & Canada

28 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2010

See all articles by Naureen Shah

Naureen Shah

Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School

Date Written: December 20, 2010


The US should ensure that detainees it apprehends and transfers to Afghan authorities are treated humanely. Just as long-term detention operations in Afghanistan are politically sensitive and pose a strategic liability to US interests, US detainee transfer practices may undercut the counterinsurgency strategy to "win hearts and minds" of the Afghan public insofar as they are associated with abuse or collusion with abusers.

The US has already committed to supporting institutional reform of the Afghan justice and security sectors - in particular, as an integral part of its plans to transition the Detention Facility in Parwan to Afghan control in 2011. Likewise, the US should take steps to systematically reduce the likelihood of abuse against detainees it transfers to the custody of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), an Afghan intelligence agency. As other human rights groups have urged, the US should consider a moratorium on transfers pending demonstrated improvement in NDS facility conditions, or consider alternative transfer arrangements. It should also conduct capacity-building, including training of NDS personnel.

The US should also take steps to deter and detect abuse by the NDS through robust, intrusive and systematic monitoring of NDS facilities where transferred detainees are held. The US should draw on the experiences of Canada and the UK, including their known failures and attempted improvements, and their willingness to declare moratoriums on transfer where there are allegations of abuse and NDS obstructions of access. The US should also establish minimum requirements for monitoring based on international torture prevention monitoring standards. These standards reflect the importance of securing a broad mandate for a monitoring team’s access to detainees. They also reflect the need to design a monitoring protocol that accounts for the ease with which torture can be concealed and the difficulty of achieving deterrence against abuse.

Keywords: detainee, Afghanistan, National Directorate of Security, ISAF, torture, monitoring, torture prevention

JEL Classification: K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Shah, Naureen, U.S. Monitoring of Detainee Transfers in Afghanistan International Standards and Lessons from the UK & Canada (December 20, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1728888 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1728888

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