Danish prisoners being tortured, report claims

Defence minister causes uproar with ‘wait and see’ response to findings that prisoners turned over to Afghan authorities are beaten into confessions

Danish forces in Afghanistan deliver prisoners to a detention facility where torture is applied to get confessions, a new report by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) concludes.

The 67-page report, titled 'Torture, Transfers and Denial of Due Process: The Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees in Afghanistan', details the plight of prisoners and methods of torture practiced in a number of prisons throughout Afghanistan.

The list includes the Lashkar Gah prison, a detention centre run by the Afghan security service, to which the Danish forces have been delivering prisoners since 2006.

The report describes cases of severe beatings with metal pipes, and inmates indicated that the beatings persisted until a satisfactory confession was obtained.

“They hit my back and feet with a massive metal pipe,” one prisoner said. “The also used their fists. That was the kind of beating we received and they did not stop until you admitted that you were involved with the Taliban.”

Mistreated prisoners were also hidden away in basement compartments when inspectors came to check on prison conditions.

The defence minister, Nick Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), told Information newspaper that until the UN says otherwise, the Danish forces will continue to deliver prisoners to the detention centre in Lashkar Gah.

”The ministry is of course following the developments and the UN investigations and we will adhere to their eventual findings."

The Defence Ministry stressed that under guidelines set down by the new Socialdemokraterne-led administration, the Army continuously monitors the conditions at the prison, but according to the AIHRC report, those efforts are inadequate.

Troels Lund Poulsen (Venstre) described the allegations as grave and questioned whether the existing model was working.

“The defence minister should take these claims very seriously,” Poulsen told Information.”We must investigate whether these accusations are legitimate. It is paramount that prisoners delivered by Danish forces are not tortured.”

Other lawmakers were more direct in their criticism, maintaining that the dire findings should have immediate consequences.

“There is absolutely nothing to discuss, this should get all alarm bells to ring,” Nikolaj Willumsen (Enhedslisten) told Information.” The minister [Hækkerup] has pledged to the parliament that he would act decisively if accounts of torture were found in Lashkar Gah, so I fully expect him to take action.”

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International contended that Denmark will be in breach of the UN human rights convention if they continue sending prisoners to Lashkar Gah.

“It will be against Denmark’s international responsibilities,“ Claus Juul, legal advisor at Amnesty International, told to Information. “According to the convention, Denmark has a responsibility to ensure that there is no risk of torture before handing over prisoners.”

Juul further indicated that just because the findings do not stem from a UN report does not mean Denmark shouldn’t take action.

Denmark currently has 750 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. The military mission there is expected to draw to a close in 2014.