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Less than 18 percent of Afghan police aware of basic rights laws

Ottawa, May 1 (ANI): Fewer than 20 per cent of Afghan law-enforcement officials are aware it’s illegal to torture someone accused of a crime in that country, a report by a Canadian government-supported human-rights watchdog says.

The rights body’s report, which surveyed 92 Afghan law-enforcement officials and 398 alleged victims of torture in detention, found that only 17.4 per cent of officials were aware of legal rights in Afghanistan affording the accused protection from torture.

Only 12 per cent of those surveyed, who included prosecutors, police and court officials, recognized the rights of the accused as outlined in the Afghan constitution. Article 29 of the constitution prohibits torture and declares information obtained through it unusable.

The study, titled The Reasons for Torture by Law Enforcement Agencies, reported that only about 58 per cent of law-enforcement officials felt an accused should not be tortured for any reason.

The report is written in Dari, a dialect of the Persian language spoken in Afghanistan, and is on the human-rights body’s website. It has not been officially translated into English.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, whose mandate comes from the Afghan constitution, also says “torture and cruel, inhumane and belittling behaviour” is widespread among that country’s law-enforcement agencies.

It says Afghan police are alleged to be responsible for more than 65 per cent of the incidents in its study.

The Globe and Mail newspaper quotes critics as saying that the Afghanistan commission’s findings raise questions about whether Canada and NATO allies are properly mentoring army, police and law-enforcement officials in the war-torn country.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar, whose party opposes the war in Afghanistan, said the 2008 study further undermines Canada’s rationale for its military mission there, which he argues suffered a serious blow after the Kabul government passed a law in March that legalizes marital rape.

Following pressure from Canada and other countries, Afghan President Hamid Karzai vowed to change it.

Canada’s aid to Afghanistan – now the largest recipient of Canadian foreign assistance – includes significant funding for training and mentoring the Afghan National Police as well as corresponding justice and correctional initiatives to support law enforcement.

Dewar said the commission’s report suggests Canadians and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries are not properly instructing Afghan law-enforcement officials on the illegality of torture.

The Canadian government declined comment on the report, saying it wanted to study it first. (ANI)

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