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ISAF investigates video of alleged detainee beating

Sep. 19, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
A video apparently shows a detainee being whipped by men dressed as members of the Afghan National Security Forces. The video briefly shows at least two men who appear to be dressed in American uniforms standing by and watching.
A video apparently shows a detainee being whipped by men dressed as members of the Afghan National Security Forces. The video briefly shows at least two men who appear to be dressed in American uniforms standing by and watching. (via Facebook)
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Officials in Afghanistan are investigating a video purportedly showing a group of men wearing Afghan National Security Forces uniforms beating a detainee.

The video, which is less than two minutes long, shows men dressed as members of the ANSF holding down a detainee who is bound at the wrists and ankles. The detainee, who is facedown, is then whipped by what appears to be a short leather strap.

Also in the video are at least two men dressed in U.S. military uniforms. They can be seen when the video camera pans around the bare room, standing off to the side observing the beating. They do not take part in the beating, which lasts for most of the duration of the video.

The International Security Assistance Force learned on Tuesday about the video, which was posted Sept. 15 on a Facebook page that is mostly in Farsi, and officials are investigating, ISAF spokeswoman Col. Jane Crichton said.

“ISAF takes all allegations of improper conduct by ISAF personnel very seriously,” she said. “Based on the video clip, we are currently unable to determine the approximate date or location it was made, and are not able to determine whether any ISAF personnel are involved or present.”

The coalition is “committed to humane treatment of detainees, including by (Afghan security forces) , in accordance with the Geneva Convention and the Law of Armed Conflict,” Crichton said.

Military Times obtained a link to the video but is not publishing it until more can be learned about its origins and authenticity.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission called the act in the video a “clear case of violation of human rights laws and international conventions,” according to TOLOnews, an Afghan news outlet that posted a story about the video on Thursday.

In response, the Afghan Ministry of Defense has said it will investigate the video, TOLOnews reported.

A spokesman for the MoD, Gen. Zahir Azimi, expressed doubts over the authenticity of the video, according to TOLOnews.

“The Ministry of Defense is investigating the case. Most probably, the men disguised themselves as [Afghan National Army] and [Afghan National Police] personnel,” he said, as reported by TOLOnews. “I do not think that the Afghan forces can commit such a crime. The intelligence agency is investigating the issue and those found guilty would be punished severely.”

When asked what U.S. troops should do if they observe potential violations of the law of armed conflict, Crichton said “coalition and U.S. soldiers abide by the law of armed conflict, and may act within their authority and ability to prevent violations. Violations of the law of armed conflict may be reported to appropriate officials in the chain of command or unit to ensure steps are taken to preclude further violations and to remedy those we can.”

U.S. troops don’t have an obligation to interfere, but they do have an obligation to report abuses or violations of the law to their chain of command, said Jeffrey Addicott, a retired lieutenant colonel who served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps for 20 years and spent a quarter of his career as the senior legal advisor to Special Forces soldiers.

Troops typically are advised not to intervene because “some of these events are volatile,” said Addicott, who is a distinguished professor of law and director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. “You could get shot or you could cause even greater violence.”

Service members also are told to never participate or approve of such behavior, he said.

“We never train people to do that stuff or condone it in any way,” he said. “The appearance of evil is just as important as the evil itself. Make known your objections if you can, but they should withdraw and report.”

When he served as the senior legal advisor to Special Forces, Addicott said he would have all his subordinate lawyers brief their soldiers on this issue every time they deployed.

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