Warning: Extremely graphic descriptions of torture below
Amnesty International Report Details Crimes by US/NATO Forces in Afghanistan
Aug. 11 2014
Thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed by United States and NATO military forces since 2001, but, according to Amnesty International, there have been only six cases in which the US military has “criminally prosecuted” officers for “unlawfully killing civilians.”
The human rights organization put out a report [PDF] containing ten cases of apparent war crimes, where proper investigations and justice for the victims have been absent. These cases involve instances of night raids by US Special Operations forces, air strikes, drone strikes and torture that have occurred within the past five years of the Afghanistan War.
One hundred and twenty-five Afghan victims, family members and eyewitnesses to attacks, which resulted in civilian deaths, were interviewed by Amnesty. The organization also sifted through “documentary records” to research the US military’s investigative and prosecutorial practices in order to further highlight how war crimes are not punished.
From December 2012 to February 2013, an elite unit, Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) or “A-Team,” was “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances. “Up to 18 people were killed” by a unit in the Nerkh and Maiden Shahr districts of the Wardak province.
Qandi Agha, a former prisoner detained for forty-five days, arrested in early November 2012, held at a base in Nerkh and then transferred to Bagram in late December, where he was confined for nearly one year, provided a horrific and vivid account of torture he experienced:
First they took off my clothes. Then they tied a thin plastic cord around my penis so I couldn’t pee. Then they forced me to lie down face down on the floor. Four people beat me with cables. They tied my legs together and beat the soles of my feet with a wooden stick. They punched me in the face and kicked me. They hit my head on the floor. They tied laces around my neck to strangle me.
During the day they’d leave me in the cell with my arms pulled out to the side, stretched out. During the night, they’d hang me from the ceiling from my hands. I have scars on my hands. My feet would be tied together. They’d barely touch the ground. My eyes were blindfolded. They’d pour cold water over my head. They’d do this from about 9 pm until 10 or 11 pm. They did this for 4 nights in a row.
They were questioning me all the time. Whenever they tortured me, they had someone with a pen and notebook. They’d ask, “Where are the weapons? Where are you hiding them?” I’d tell them that I worked as a cashier for the Ministry of Culture: “Ask them about me,” I’d say.
They left the string around my penis for 4 days. My abdomen was bulging. I wasn’t able to pee for those 4 days.
Agha described being dunked in a “large barrel of water.”
…They’d dunk me in the tank head first, with just my legs and feet sticking out of the water. My feet would be tied together, and my arms would be tied to my side. They would hold me there until I was unconscious. I’d breathe in water. They did that to me two times, on about the seventh or eighth night I was held. The Americans gave the orders and the Afghans did it…
Such torture would have been taking place years after President Barack Obama issued an executive order prohibiting waterboarding as an “enhanced interrogation technique.” Was the unit operating under the presumption that if they were not using their own hands to do the torture they could claim to have no responsibility?