News24

Nato admits Afghan police abuses

2011-12-16 17:00

Kabul - A Nato military report acknowledged on Friday that members of a US-funded Afghan police force have committed human rights abuses, but insisted the units are making a "tremendous difference" overall.

The report followed a highly critical Human Rights Watch investigation released in September that claimed members of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) are getting away with serious abuses including rape and murder.

The ALP, set up in 2010 and touted as key to the security handover, arms local people to protect their communities in areas where the Afghan army and regular police have limited reach.

The force, which does not have law enforcement powers, is due to more-than triple in size to 30 000. Critics have called it little more than a militia.

The investigation, ordered by the US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, looked at 46 allegations of abuse and found seven were credible, 10 were not credible, and 15 were credible "in part".

Credible allegations

Investigating officer Brigadier James Marrs of the US Air Force said the credible allegations included a case where a policeman killed an ALP commander who was trying to release two boys who had been kidnapped for ransom.

There were also credible allegations that the ALP stole from villagers, "roughed up" suspects and hit a child with a stick.

Human Rights Watch also raised concerns about the role of government-backed militia groups controlled by local strongmen, which it linked to rapes, smuggling, extortion and targeted killings.

The militia are small groups loyal to warlords with roots in Afghanistan's bloody past, while the uniformed and salaried ALP was only set up last year.

Marrs found it credible that those militias, known as arbakai, were guilty of collecting informal taxes, committing sexual offences, and theft.

Militias also killed a guard from a provincial reconstruction team, units designed to kick-start development, the evidence suggested.

The Nato report conceded it was "essential" to teach the ALP about human rights and that "political differences, power struggles and corruption are some of the multiple challenges to overcome".

But it claimed the HRW report "ignores the vital service ALP and VSO [village stability operations] are providing every day to give Afghans a chance to end 30 years of conflict and to live secure and peaceful lives".

"ALP and VSO are making a tremendous difference," the report said.

During the 37-day investigation, 21 personnel visited 45 locations throughout Afghanistan.

In May, a report by Oxfam highlighted growing rights abuses by Afghan national police and troops, including killings and child sex abuse.

Afghanistan's army and police have grown quickly to over 300 000 and received billions of dollars of funding from the US in a bid to build them up ahead of the foreign combat force withdrawal in 2014.