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Afghanistan

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 2 July 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make representations to the Government of Afghanistan suggesting that 600 prisoners at Bagram be charged if suspected of criminal offences; and that they and other detainees in Afghanistan be provided with a satisfactory review process for their detention. [HL4342]

The UK works closely with the Afghan authorities to support a strengthening of the criminal justice system across Afghanistan. The UK is clear that all detainees should be treated humanely. It is right that the International Committee of the Red Cross have access to those detained at the Bagram detention facility.

The question of prisoners detained at Bagram is a matter for the US and Afghan Governments as Bagram is a US detention facility. President Obama has set in motion a comprehensive review of detention policy and practice, including in Afghanistan. We welcome this and await its outcome.

The formal justice system in Afghanistan faces many challenges, including a shortage of trained judges and legal representation. The UK and international community are supporting the strengthening of the justice sector to address these; for example, at the national level the UK is building the capacity of the Criminal Justice Task Force and, through the Department for International Development, has supported the World Bank's Justice Sector Reform Project.

The UK also supports human rights in Afghanistan. Since 2001 the UK has given nearly £2 million to support the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). The AIHRC has over 500 staff across Afghanistan, actively tackling human rights issues, including false imprisonment.

In its 2007 annual report, the AIHRC stated that its Monitoring and Investigation Unit, in close co-operation with the Afghan Ministry of Justice, prepared a list of 2,392 people who were in prison after the completion of their sentences or who were otherwise illegally detained. The AIHRC later released an update stating that 819 of those who were illegally detained had been released and the sentences of an estimated 1,500 more had been determined.