WASHINGTON, D.C.—Former detainees held at a classified detention facility in Afghanistan claim mistreatment by U.S. military, the Open Society Foundations said in a report released today. The accounts by Afghans—who refer to the site as “Tor Jail” or “Black Jail”—are not in accordance with U.S. detention rules.
The report, Confinement Conditions at a U.S. Screening Facility on Bagram Air Base, provides the first detailed account of detainee treatment at this classified site, which is different than the well-know Bagram detention facility. Detainees state that they were held in excessively cold isolation cells; supplied inappropriate or inadequate food, bedding, and blanketing; denied exposure to natural light; unable to carry out their religious duties; restricted from exercise; and kept from meeting with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Of the former detainees interviewed, some claimed to have been held at the site as recently as 2010. “The allegations about Tor Jail should be taken seriously by the Obama Administration, which has sought to reform detention practices in Afghanistan,” said Jonathan Horowitz, human rights expert and author of the report.
Due to the classified nature of the facility, government officials have not publicly commented on the purpose or location of this facility. Media reports and commentators have said the facility is associated with Joint Special Operations Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The report highlights detention conditions that, if true, appear to violate U.S. rules on detainee treatment, including those in the Army’s Human Intelligence Collector Operations Field Manual, and Common Article 3 of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which prohibits “cruel treatment and torture,” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”
“Despite the government’s insistence that its detention rules meet the minimum requirements under international law, it appears that this facility is either ignoring those rules or interpreting them so loosely that they make detainees susceptible to mistreatment,” said Horowitz.
The report calls on the government to conduct an investigation to ensure that personnel at the facility uphold Department of Defense detainee treatment rules and standards. A thorough review of U.S. interrogation and detainee treatment rules is also needed to ensure compliance with international detainee treatment standards. The report recommends immediate actions to reduce the likelihood of mistreatment, such as providing additional food and blankets to detainees.
Active in more than 70 countries, the Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.