Mapp’s reassurances on torture fall short

It’s not good enough for Defence Minister Wayne Mapp to say he has “

no information

” that any of the 58 people arrested on the SAS’s joint operations with the Afghan Crisis Response Unit have been subsequently tortured.

He admitted that 15 of them had been sent to facilities run by the Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), which comes in for the harshest criticism in this month’s

UN report on the Afghan government’s treatment of “conflict-related” detainees

. When interviewed by the UN half of those detained by the NDS said they had been tortured, most of them badly tortured. Mapp told the NZ Listener that “it appears” most of those 15 Afghans were sent to the NDS Kabul facility 17/40, which the UN says has torture allegations against it. The UN is following up these allegations.

Some of these 15 prisoners would likely have been transferred from 17/40 facility to most notorious NDS Kabul prison Department 90/124, which the UN says engages in systematic torture, including shock treatment and sexual assault. Department 90/124 specialises in interrogating “high value” suspects generally captures by special forces (including international forces)  –  and it seems the prime special forces unit operating in Kabul, targeting high value suspects, is the SAS/CRU unit.

There don’t appear to be any procedures to stop such transfers of prisoners. All our SAS does is note the names of the SAS/CRU prisoners and where they are first placed, and passes this information on to the NATO/ISAF office – which doesn’t have a system to follow up individual prisoners.

Most of the 58 prisoners taken by the SAS/CRU are presumably first detained in an Afghan National Police (ANP) facility. However, the UN reports significant transfer of prisoners between the ANP and the NDS, so several of these ANP prisoners probably ended up being tortured in the NDS 90/124 prison. If they had stayed in ANP custody they would have been better off – only 33 percent of ANP prisoners are tortured, according to the UN survey.

It is hard to see how our government can avoid contravening the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture by allowing our SAS to continue to operate in this environment.