DOS Cable re: Prison Survey Detainee and Prison Conditions in Afghanistan

This DOS Cable discusses a visit to a detention facility in Afghanistan. It explains that there was a previous issue at the facility of overcrowding and lack of resources, but that the current climate is better. Also, the cable notes that the facility houses seventy-five known Taliban commanders and thirty-five inmates convicted of civil crimes (e.g. murder, robbery, and gambling).

Doc_type: 
Cable
Doc_date: 
Tuesday, April 1, 2003
Doc_rel_date: 
Monday, November 22, 2004
Doc_text: 

UNCLASSIFIED

5Ce

RELEASED IN PART CONFIDENTIAL Bl, 1.4(D), B6
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C ONFIDENTIAL KABUL 001012

NSC FOR ZKHALILZAD, JDWORKEN, HMANN, RHANSON, DSEDNEY

PACOM FOR POLAD
CENTCOM FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/17/2013
TAGS: PREL, PHUM, PTER, KAWC, AF, PK

SUBJECT: IMPROVED CONDITIONS AT SHIBERGHAN PRISON

REP: STATE 95030 (NOTAL)

Classified By: AMBASSADOR ROBERT P. FINN FOR REASONS 1.5

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE REVIEW AUTHORITY: FRANK E SCHMELZER
T INCLASSIFIED
DATF/CASE ID: 30 SEP 2004 200303827
UNCLASSIFIED

(B) AND (D)

1.
(C) Summary. The prison in the provincial (Jowzjan)
capital of Shiberghan has the largest population of Taliban
prisoners in Afghanistan. Shortly after the fall of the
Taliban the prison suffered from over-crowding as well as
shortages of food and medicine. A site visit on April 17
revealed a significantly better life for the prisoners with
one-third the population of a year ago and sufficient
nutrition and medical care. End Summary.

2.
(C) Mazar-e Sharif-based Poloff conducted a site visit
accompanied by a military civil affairs team with expertise
in preventative medicine and prison assessment. A citizen
soldier provided prison assessment expertise from the U.S.
Army Civil Affairs Unit. Prior to being called to active
duty in Afghanistan,/

B6
3. (C) The delegation interviewed the prison warden,
Akhtar Khan and

.I.Bl

prior to inspecting the grounds,
medical facility, and interviewing 13 prisoners.

4.
(C) The warden reported this is a 43 year-old prison
built to support 1000 inmates. In January 2002, the
population swelled to 3478 as Taliban forces surrendered or
were captured. Local forces were taxed to their capacity to
care for the prisoners and requested assistance from the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for
supplemental feeding assistance, prisoner registration, as
well as, humanitarian medical and sanitation assistance.

5.
(C) The picture is now better in April 2003 with a
prison population of 1088, comprised of 564 Pakistani and 524
Afghan prisoners. Most of the prisoners have been in
confinement for one and a half years. I
there are 75 known Taliban commanders and 35 inmates
convicted of civil crimes such as murder, robbery, gambling,
and sexual abuse. The population was-reduced by over 1000
through a series of amnesty decrees from President Karzai
during Eid celebrations, others were released after
investigation by the intelligence agencies. A small number
of prisoners were transferred to U.S. control for detention
elsewhere.

6.
(C) The health of the prisoners has improved
dramatically in the past year. There were three patients in
the 14-bed sick ward with mild respiratory difficulties
compared to an overflowing combat casualty ward in 2002. The
humanitarian NCO Emergencies provides all the medicine and a
medical staff of three. The physicians interviewed confirmed
additional assistance is provided by the Shiberghan city
public health hospital primarily to treat the 108 cases of
tuberculosis (TB). There are 25 contagious TB patients
housed in a stark but uncrowded TB isolation cellblock close
to the infirmary and away from the prison population. The

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED

balance of the TB patients have been treated, do not have
active TB and have been returned to the prison population.
The medical facility is clean and provides a higher standard
of care than the Balkh and Mazar regional clinics for Afghan
citizens. The warden and medical staff reported one death in
2003 compared to 36 in 2002. There no longer is concern with
dysentery or jaundice in the prison population. The ICRC has
assisted in upgrading the sanitation system of the prison and
the medical staff provides health education. Periodic
outbreaks of lice and scabies are treated with appropriate
medication and are not prevalent. The prisoners clothes

and bodies appeared as clean as the Afghan population we
observe daily in Mazar and the Afghan countryside.

7.
(C) The diet of the prisoners has steadily improved as
the population decreased to a more manageable level. The
ICRC provided a supplemental feeding program during the
winter of 2002-2003 to ensure adequate nutrition. This was
discontinued as the three meals currently provide sufficient
calories. The diet includes bread and sugar for breakfast,
rice for lunch and beans for dinner. Drinking water is from
a tap in the cellblock.

8.
(C) Poloff did not observe outward signs of physical
mistreatment of the prisoners. Except for a walk through of
the central courtyard where prisoners could be seen from
behind locked gates and 13 randomly selected interviews with
inmates, the delegation members did not go into the
cellblocks for their own protection. Prison officials wanted
to offer access but were correctly concerned about a
spontaneous uprising of passionate Taliban and suspected
al-Qa'ida prisoners against an American official. The ICRC

'conduct bi-weekly visits to this
prison with unfettered access to all prisoners. All the
prisoners interviewed by the delegation said they had spoken
with an ICRC representative and some have received and sent
letters and had visits from relatives as a result of
registration.

9.
(C) The prisoners rotate for exercise by cellblock.
The cells are emptied, scrubbed down, and bedding is aired
out during their exercise rotation. Prisoners may flow
between the interior and exterior courtyards during this
time. Non-compliant prisoners are isolated or have their
movement restricted. Prisoners may have visitors for five
minutes on Mondays and Thursdays and may receive packages
from family and friends.

10.
(C) Comment: Following a January 2002 visit by
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) to Shiberghan prison, PHR
released a report documenting the poor conditions there.
Shiberghan became a synonym for misery. Human rights and
press reporting since then have continued to feed off the PHR
report that is now over a year old and out of date. Lodging
and food at Shiberghan are on par with those of most Afghans
who are not in prison. The medical facility and treatment is

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED

to what is available to citizens in the region. We
saw no overt signs of animosity directed by the prison staff

o

superior
toward the prisoners, and the prisoners did not appear t be

a

afraid of the guard staff. While conditions at Shiberghan
are not ideal, prison officials Working with IOs and NGOs

reduced the misery
have clearly improved prison standards Eand comment.
that was so evident in January 2002. nd

FINN

UNCLASSIFIED

Doc_nid: 
5908
Doc_type_num: 
68