U.S. cited for more prisoner abuse

The United States has failed to investigate and prosecute “numerous” cases of abuse and killings of Afghan detainees implicating US military and CIA personnel, a rights group has said.

Human Rights Watch welcomed this week’s jail sentence against a CIA contractor who was convicted of beating an Afghan detainee, but the New York-based group said it was “singular exception to an otherwise poor record of accountability.”

“No one should be above the law in Afghanistan,” Sam Zarifi, Human Rights Watch’s Asia research director, said in a statement.

“The United States and its allies have promised to reform the rule of law and the justice system in Afghanistan, but until the US is willing to provide accountability for its own forces, these pledges are not credible,” he said.

A North Carolina judge on Tuesday sentenced former CIA contractor David Passaro, who was convicted of beating an Afghan detainee with a flashlight, to eight years and four months in prison.

Passaro’s victim, a farmer named Abdul Wali, died within 48 hours of a two-day interrogation at a US military base in Afghanistan in July 2003.

“One person going to prison is not accountability for widespread abuse,” Zarifi said.

“Numerous other US personnel have been implicated in detainee killings in Afghanistan, yet few have been punished — and most of those punished have received only slaps on the wrist.”

HRW said the US military had not “adequately investigated numerous other cases of abuse implicating military personnel, including several killings of detainees in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003.”

“Nor has the military sought to prosecute senior officers on the grounds of command responsibility for failing to stop abuses that they knew or should have known were occurring.”

The rights group also slammed the US Justice Department “for failing to investigate whether civilian leadership in the CIA and military committed crimes by authorizing abusive interrogations in Afghanistan.”

“The failure to investigate senior US officials for their role in authorizing detainee abuse is not for lack of evidence but for lack of political will,” Zarifi said.

“Only an independent prosecutor can mount credible investigations into detainee abuse issues, and Congress should press the administration to appoint one.”

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse