In its report, the watchdog analyzed three major prisons in Afghanistan, Pul-i-Charkhi on the eastern outskirts of Kabul, the central prisons in northern Baghlan and central Maidan Wardak provinces, where basic rights of the inmates were “seriously violated.”
The study was conducted in the presence of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) officials, Afghanistan Justice Organization (AJO) and Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) members.
The report finds that crumbling of a building and fire in the prisons is a possibility besides poor healthcare services, lack of clean drinking water and food for the prisoners. The shortage of power and air was also observed in the three prisons.
Speaking to the media in Kabul, Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, said: “Corruption and embezzlement are the key factors behind the poor condition of the prisons facilities and its mismanagement.”
He said there was a high risk of corruption in construction of prison facilities and 1030 items and portions of the building in the prison had not been installed or constructed despite being explicit in the contracts.
“Contracted companies, monitors of the US government and Afghan government officials are key players having a role in corruption and embezzlement in Pul-i-Charki, Baghlan and Wardak prisons.” Afzali added.
The report also refers to the poor condition of prison management. The existing facilities and equipment available have not been effectively operated and maintained.
Overall, 28 percent of facilities and equipment are dysfunctional, the report says, calling the way Afghan government manages its prisons “a deep concern”, despite having knowledge of the issues.
“Lack of taking action is concerning,” the report finds. In 2014, SIGAR highlighted 10 major defaults in Pul-i-Charkhi prison, but after two years only one has been addressed.
Corrective actions in Baghlan have improved but overall it remains poor; officials have been able to only address half of the defaults highlighted in the SIGAR report in Baghlan prison.
Muheburrahman Rahmani, Head of Afghanistan Independent Bar Association who was also at the panel said: “Afghan laws obligate the government to ensure the rights of inmates including providing decent cells, clean and adequate water and food.”
The report finds that the management of prisons was not able to build separate areas for inmates according to their crime category.
Rahmani added lack of separate places for prisoners with different crime category could be a major factor preventing correction of the prisoners.
The representative of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission expressed his concern from the very bad status of Afghan prisons.
Speaking to the reporters, he said: “Afghan prisons have limited capacity to house the current number of inmates. Prison officials violet the rights of inmates.”
He also did not rule out the possibility of prisoners being subject to torture.” Instead of a correctional institution, prisons have turned into the theater of crimes,” he added.
Focused on the findings of prison facilities in Baghlan (November 2015), Pul-i-Charkhi (March 2016), and Wardak (2017), the study was undertaken by IWA inspection teams.
The inspection comprised exterior and interior inspections of the prison facilities with the use of an engineering checklist and interviews with prison staff
The above-mentioned prisons have been restored and constructed with the financial support of the US government that was under the watch of joint Afghan-US monitors.
Omran Holding Group has constructed Baghlan prisons while Pul-i-Charkhi and Wardak prisons were restored by Al Watan Construction Company and Afghanistan Rehabilitation & Architecture Organization (AROA) respectively.