Human rights group demands U.S. accountability in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – The Asia Division of Human Rights Watch has sent a letter to U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld demanding accountability in Washington for crimes allegedly committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The group says it knows about two new cases of prisoners dying in U.S. military custody in Afghanistan and it is calling for an investigation into a third death that occurred three months ago.

“The government’s failure to hold its personnel accountable for serious abuses has spawned a culture of impunity among some personnel. And as you know, some of the personnel involved in earlier abuses in Afghanistan have now been implicated in later abuses in Iraq,” says the letter signed by the group’s executive director Brad Adams.

Human Rights Watch says it has heard testimony that U.S. forces have hung prisoners upside down, hit them with sticks, soaked them in cold water, forced them to lie in snow and administered electric shocks to their toes.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has ruled out scaling back its 16,000-member force in Afghanistan in spite of mounting pressures on overstretched forces in Iraq.

The U.S. leads a coalition of international troops hunting Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants who are waging an open revolt in the south and southeast.

U.S. forces have launched a winter offensive dubbed Operation Lightning Freedom to prevent insurgents from gathering strength ahead of parliamentary elections in May 2005.

NATO has also ruled out cutting back its 8,400 multinational peacekeepers in Kabul ahead of next year’s elections.

With files from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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