Afghanistan: Amnesty report advocates police reform

KABUL, 13 March (IRIN) - The Afghan Minister of Interior told IRIN on Thursday that police training was the top priority of his ministry, following a report issued by Amnesty International (AI) a day earlier, which said Afghan police did not have the capacity to protect human rights.
"I agree with Amnesty International that police should be trained and disciplined to ensure better security and protect human rights," Ali Ahmad Jalali, Afghan Minister of Interior, told IRIN in the capital Kabul. He accepted that most police officers hadn't had professional training, but rejected the notion that torture or harassment was practiced by the country's police force. "I myself monitor human rights issues and cases in the country," Jalali said.

But the new AI report alleges that some police are involved in committing human rights violations. "Amnesty International found evidence of torture and ill treatment of individuals at the hands of the police," Margaret Ladner, an AI research coordinator, told IRIN, noting that common methods of torture included beating with an electric cable or a metal bar, electric shocks, and hanging detainees from the ceiling by their arms, sometimes for several days.

The report is based on research from Balkh, Bamyan, Herat, Hilmand, Kabul and Kandahar provinces. Although there are 50,000 police in Afghanistan, it is not a coherent civilian force, the report argues. "Much of the police force consists of former Mujahideen, who have extensive military experience but little or no professional training or experience," Ladner said, mentioning that many provincial police forces had stronger ties to powerful regional commanders than to central government. "They [police] are accustomed to acting with impunity," she said.

According to the activist, across Afghanistan, people are being arrested and held in police detention beyond that legally allowed without being charged. "Many of those whom Amnesty International interviewed in prison had been held for over half a year without appearing before court," she acknowledged. Despite the report, the Afghan Interior minister is optimistic that human rights violations can be identified and prevented in the future. "The new structure of the interior ministry has a human rights office in all police departments of provinces and districts," Jalali claimed, adding that the new office would watch the actions of police, while at the same time try to raise their awareness with regard to human rights protection.

Training and resources are the key to creating a proper police force, observers say. "There are 1,500 police being trained in the [Kabul] police academy with the support of Germany," he said, adding that with support from the US, a new police training centre was to be established in Kabul and would train thousands of policemen. "In four or five years we will be able to offer up to fifty thousand trained police - including old and new recruits," the minister outlined.

But for Hakimboy Qarluq, an Afghan truck driver, resources are the main issue now. "The government should fully equip the police and pay their salaries in addition to professional training," the northern Afghanistan citizen told IRIN in Kabul, complaining he and his colleagues were forced to transport police equipment without pay. "They even ate lunch on me," the trucker said.


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