HRW urges Afghans to investigate prison death

AP News
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Posted: Dec 23, 2009 4:49 AM

A human rights group has called on the Afghan government to investigate the death of a suspect who died while being held in prison by the intelligence service, saying his body showed signs of possible torture.

Human Rights Watch said in a report seen Wednesday that Abdul Basir, an Afghan citizen, died Dec. 7 in a National Directorate of Security detention facility. According to the report, Basir's family was told he had committed suicide by jumping out of a window.

The group said it had photographs of Basir's body that showed possible signs of torture, including small dark circles on his forehead, blackened cuts on his back, bruising in several places and a large cut to his shin. The photos were posted on the group's Web site.

Basir's family said he was tortured by the intelligence service during his interrogation, according to the report. Human Rights Watch said it had received reports of others being tortured by the intelligence service as well.

The service continues to deny regular access to all of its facilities to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch said.

The intelligence service had no immediate comment.

"Any attempts by the security directorate to block an investigation into Basir's death will only fuel suspicions of abuses," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in the report. "The attorney general and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission should promptly investigate the cause of death, and the autopsy report should go to the family."

Basir was arrested after attackers with automatic weapons and suicide vests stormed a guest house used by U.N. staff members in the heart of the capital, Kabul, in October, killing 12 people, including five U.N. employees. Three gunmen who were killed in the attack stayed in Basir's house before the assault, according to the intelligence service. His father and two brothers were also detained and remain in custody.

Human Rights Watch said an intelligence official told family members that Basir's father signed a statement confirming that Basir had committed suicide and that an autopsy was not required. The intelligence official told them that if they buried the body, Basir's brothers and father would be released, the rights group said.

Concerned that the marks on Basir's body may have been signs of torture, the family took it to the Health Ministry for an autopsy, Human Rights Watch said. The findings have not been made public.

According to the report, the family said security agency officials later came to the house where the body was being held and told them to bury it. When family members tried to take the body to parliament, agency vehicles blocked their way.