U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, deputy commander, Joint Task Force-435 (ISAFMedia photo on Flickr)
Just days after a new report (pdf) was released, providing further evidence that torture of detainees in Afghanistan continues at the "secret" site at Bagram Air Base, Reuters informs us that a detainee in NATO custody has been "found dead" in his cell.
From the Reuters report:
A detainee being held by troops from the NATO-led force in Afghanistan was found dead in his holding cell, and an investigation is underway, the force said in a statement Monday.
The man was captured during a military operation by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Saturday and was "found dead" the following day in his cell in Kandahar province, ISAF said in a statement.
It did not give any further details.
This death of a detainee comes just days after the release of a report by a Soros-funded group, the Open Society Foundations, on "Confinement Conditions at a U.S. Screening Facility on Bagram Air Base" (pdf). The primary findings of the investigation match with reports that began coming out of Afghanistan as early as November, 2009 that torture of NATO prisoners was continuing in Afghanistan after President Obama’s declaration that torture was to be discontinued.
Here are the primary findings of the Open Society Foundations investigation into treatment at the "Black Jail" at Bagram:
In July 2010, the Open Society Foundations conducted research into the conditions of confinement at the facility to determine if the allegations in the media were ongoing and widespread. The Open Society Foundations interviewed over 20 former detainees, 18 of whom stated that they passed through the facility. Of these 18, half claimed to have been detained as recently as 2009 or 2010 while the facility was operating under the Obama Administration. The other half stated that they passed through the facility in 2007 or 2008.
Based on those interviews, the vast majority of the detainees repeatedly and consistently described the following types of treatment, many of which appear inconsistent with specific U.S. military rules on detention:
• Exposure to excessive cold
• Exposure to excessive light
• Inappropriate and inadequate food
• Inadequate bedding and blanketing
• Disorientation and lack of natural light
• Sleep deprivation due to an accumulation of circumstances
• Denial of religious duties
• Lack of physical exercise
• Nudity upon arrival
• Detrimental impact from an accumulation of confinement conditions
• Facility rules and relevant Geneva Conventions rules/rights not posted
• Lack of transparency and denial of International Committee of the Red Cross access to detainees
Since this most recent death of a detainee occurred in Kandahar province, it was not at the Bagram "Black Jail" described above. However, it most likely was at a secretive "screening site" run by Special Operations forces. Joint Task Force 435 is in charge of known prison sites in Afghanistan, but the command structure for the secret sites may be different. In August of 2009, the US announced a policy limiting prisoners to no more than two weeks at these secret jails, after which they must be transferred to facilities to which the ICRC has access:
The change begins to lift the veil from the American government’s most secretive remaining overseas prisons by allowing the Red Cross to track the custody of dozens of the most dangerous suspected terrorists and foreign fighters plucked off the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Unlike the secret prisons run by the C.I.A. that President Obama ordered closed in January, the military continues to operate the Special Operations camps, which it calls temporary screening sites, in Balad, Iraq, and Bagram, Afghanistan.
The Red Cross is allowed access to almost all American military prisons and battlefield detention sites in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the Special Operations camps have been excluded.
What will the "investigation" into this death reveal? When will the results be released? But then again, this is just one more of over 100 detainees who may have been tortured to death, so don’t expect much attention from the US government or the corporate media.