Rights group urges priority to revamp Afghan police

Poorly trained officers accused of using torture

March 13, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

KABUL, Afghanistan - Residents in an ethnic Hazara neighborhood of Kabul took to the streets this month. Their target was the police, whom they accused of trying to kidnap a local woman. They demanded, as well, that members of their own ethnic group be hired to patrol their neighborhood.

The protest illustrated the depth of mistrust toward an unaccountable and unrepresentative police force that has built up during 23 years of war and the continuing recovery from it.

Amnesty International released a report yesterday saying that Afghanistan and its international backers needed to make the overhaul of the country's police force an urgent priority.

The report laid out a picture of poorly trained and ill-equipped police officers who engage in torture, arbitrary arrest and extortion.

"Rather than protecting all people in Afghanistan, some police officers are actually committing human rights violations," the report said.

Many of the country's 50,000 officers are former mujahedeen with military backgrounds but little or no police training. Outside of Kabul, officers answer to regional commanders for whom they fought against the Taliban; there is no governing body to whom Afghans can direct complaints about the police, the report noted.

And resources are few: Provincial police officers interviewed by Amnesty hadn't been paid in four months. They lacked uniforms, boots and even pens and paper.

There are some efforts under way to improve the force. The German government has helped reopen the police academy in Kabul, where 1,500 cadets are training, and the U.S. State Department plans to train another 7,000 police officers in Kabul.

But Amnesty noted a profound need for training elsewhere in the country.

In Bamiyan, half of the officers in a force of 700 have police training, Amnesty said; in Kandahar, only 120 of 3,000 officers have training.

The results are clear, the report stated. Police officers untrained in investigative techniques often resort to coercion. Former detainees described being beaten, subjected to electric shocks and hung from ceilings by their arms.

Last November, at least two students were killed by police during a protest at Kabul University. Five officers were arrested for excessive use of force; Amnesty said the handling of the demonstration showed the need for crowd-control training.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.