Afghanistan: New report says police reform essential to nation-building

The 47-page report, launched today in Kabul, details widespread instances of torture, arbitrary detention and extortion by police officers - including the use of electric shocks, and severe and prolonged beatings during interrogations.

The report reveals a chronic lack of police training and of material resources in Afghanistan, with salaries unpaid and some police stations lacking even basic equipment like pens and paper.

Only a minority of Afghanistan's police is well trained and properly motivated, and the report shows that:

  • Many former Mujahideen fighters make up the ranks of the country's 50,000-strong police force. In Bamiyan, for example, of a 700-strong force 350 are former Mujahideen.
  • In Kandahar, only 120 of 3,000 officers have received any training, all of it over 10 years ago.
  • In Karukh district, Herat province, only six of 120 police officers have received police academy training, and that prior to Taleban rule.

With warlordism and violence still prevalent in many parts of Afghanistan, and some police owing primary allegiance to regional commanders with whom they fought Taleban forces, Amnesty International's report voices concern that past and ongoing human rights abuse will remain unpunished.

Amnesty International said:

'Constructing a professional police system is an indispensable part of Afghanistan's rebuilding process.

'If Afghans see a police force committed not to the rule of law but to warlordism and to the settling of old scores, then Afghanistan's terrible human rights scars are unlikely to heal.

'For over two decades the people of Afghanistan have seen their country's institutions degraded and destroyed. The fear now is that there is insufficient international will to support the rebuilding effort.'

Background

At the January 2002 International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance of Afghanistan in Tokyo, the German government agreed, at the request of the Afghan Interim Administration, to act as the lead government assisting the reconstruction of the Afghan police force.

The German Project for Support of the Police in Afghanistan has provided technical and financial support and expertise on policing to the Afghan Transitional Administration. This includes the reconstruction of the Police Academy in Kabul to train 1,500 police officers.

Other donors including the US are also focusing on training but many other essential areas have been overlooked, most crucially the establishment of accountability mechanisms, including civilian oversight.

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