Press conference: Launch of Integrity Watch Afghanistan research report on the state prisons in Afghanistan

Press Release
Kabul, November 12, 2017

Integrity Watch Afghanistan: Despite, millions of dollars spent, the state of prisons in Afghanistan remains inhuman

Nov 12, 2017-Kabul: Integrity Watch Afghanistan launched a report analyzing the state of three major prisons in Afghanistan while Afghanistan Justice Organization (AJO) and Afghanistan Independent Bar Association(AIBA) were also present. The report finds that crumbling of a building and fire in the prisons is a possibility. Also, poor healthcare services, lack of clean drinking water and food for the prisoners, shortage of power and air observed in Pol-i-Charkhi, Baghlan and Wardak prisons, seriously violated the basic rights of the inmates.Speaking to the media, 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. ”There is a high risk of corruption in the construction of prison facilities. 1030 items and portions of the building in the prison have not been installed or constructed despite being explicit in the contracts. “Contracted companies, monitors of the U.S. government and Afghan government officials are key players having a role in corruption and embezzlement in Pol-i-Charki, Baghlan and Wardak prisons.” Mr. 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 way Afghan government manages its prisons is of a deep concern, despite having knowledge of the issues, lack of taking action is concerning. In 2014, SIGAR highlighted 10 major defaults in Pul-i-Charkhi prison, but after two years only 1 have been addressed. Corrective actions in Baghlan has 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 the prisons was not able to build separate areas for the inmates according to their crime category. Mr. Rahmani added that lack of separate places for prisoners with different crime category could be a major factor preventing correction of the prisoners.

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has also published reports on situation of prisons in Afghanistan previously. These reports prepared based on the obligation of the Afghan government to secure rights of its citizen and international conventions, confirm volition of rights of prisoners.

This report is focused on the findings of prison facilities in Baghlan (November 2015), Pol-i-Charkhi (March 2016), and Wardak (2017) undertaken by inspection teams of Integrity Watch Afghanistan. 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 U.S 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.

RECOMMENDATIONS
The following practical recommendations, based on the findings are proposed:

  1. Donors should coordinate planning of prison projects with the Afghan government, involving sharing of drawings and designs of buildings; and consult with prison staffs, most knowledgeable of prison conditions regularly.
  2. Donors’ agreement with construction contractors must include a clause for Afghan government to undertake on-site monitoring visits, at regular intervals, for quality assurance during the construction period.
  3. Joint monitoring and inspections should be considered. Monitoring and quality assurance teams should include Afghanistan CSOs, knowledgeable of the challenges that Afghanistan prisons encounter, and Afghan human rights advocacy group   representatives.
  4. Findings of inspections during the construction period by government and donor appointed monitors and advocacy groups should be widely shared and discussed to decide future actions.
  5. Inspections must ensure that the deliverables from the contractors are meeting the requirements laid down by the contract clauses and that all construction and renovations are completed and delivered in a timely fashion before payments are released.
  6. Donors should impose penalty charges on the implementing contractor when the latter defaults on delivery and does not comply with original contract specifications and requirements.
  7. Afghan government should provide adequate operation and maintenance budget to the prisons and make provisions for adequate number of skilled staff.
  8. To reduce overcrowding of the prisons, punishments other than imprisonment should be considered by the Afghan government for crimes of certain categories. Implementation of this recommendation will require intricate planning with considerations given to adoption of policies to reduce prison population in course of time.
  9. The following safety measures, must be installed and be kept in working condition at all times: fire alarm systems; heat and smoke detectors; lighted emergency and exit signs operational at all times; and emergency evacuation stairs. Without stable electricity-supply most of these elements will not operate during emergencies; and thus, prison power systems’ connection with the city gridlines and well-maintained generators are essentials.
  10. Prison power supply system should be connected with the city gridline for 24-hour electricity supply.  The Wardak Facility is connected to the city gridline and to date, has experienced no problems with electricity supply. Especially the prison in Baghlan, being a high security prison facility, must be assured of uninterrupted electricity supply. A well-maintained back-up power system must be installed in all prison facilities to ensure electricity supply when the city power system is down.
  11. Construction of visitation areas for offering privacy to the inmates when they meet their families is an urgent need.
  12. Adequate provision should be made to address inmates’ hygiene and sanitation needs through construction of adequate number of toilets and shower stalls, a recommendation that especially applies to the Baghlan facility, in which a part of the building holding these amenities had been demolished and no new building has been constructed.
  13. Uninterrupted access of all building occupants to clean drinking water is a priority need to be addressed.
  14. Adequate provisions must be made for health care delivery to the inmates.
  15. Access to heating and cooling systems to face the vagaries of changing weather conditions is a right for prisoners, embedded in the Afghan law. Thus, systems for heating in the winter and cooling in the summer must be installed and maintained.
  16. Operational sewage systems are essential to promote better environmental and living conditions for inmates, staff and neighbors of the facilities.

To read the full report click here.

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