KABUL, Afghanistan – A U.S. brigadier general will review the military's secretive prisons in Afghanistan, the Army announced Saturday, as officials in Washington revealed they were looking into the deaths of two more Afghans here.
Brig. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby (search), deputy operational commander at the U.S. military's main base at Bagram, north of Kabul, will carry out the "top to bottom" review and deliver a report by mid-June, spokesman Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager said.
The overall commander of the 20,000 U.S.-led forces pursuing Taliban (search) and Al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Barno (search), ordered the review earlier this month in response to the growing scandal about prisoner abuse in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jacoby is to visit each of the about 20 American detention centers, including the main jail at Bagram and others at smaller bases around the country "to ensure internationally accepted standards of handling detainees are being met," Mansager said.
"He will ensure facilities are adequate, procedures are in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions (search) and are being followed correctly and fully, and that staffing and capabilities are adequate to the task," the spokesman said.
American-led forces have detained hundreds of people in Afghanistan since ousting the Taliban at the end of 2001 for harboring Usama bin Laden (search) and his Al Qaeda network. The United States considers them "unlawful combatants" not entitled to the full protection of the Geneva Conventions, and many have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and held without trial or access to lawyers for more than two years.
The military, which currently holds about 350 prisoners in Afghanistan, recently announced two new criminal investigations into allegations of abuse by former prisoners in Afghanistan, including an account by a former Afghan police colonel who said he was beaten and sexually abused last summer before being released without charge.
It is also under pressure over the unexplained deaths of several Afghan detainees.
The military says it made a raft of largely undisclosed changes to its procedures after the deaths of two Bagram inmates in December 2002, both of which were ruled homicides after military autopsies.
It also now allows the International Committee of the Red Cross access to prisoners at Bagram. A Red Cross request to visit the holding facility at the southern city of Kandahar was still under consideration, Mansager said.
But the military says the criminal investigation into the Bagram deaths is still dragging on, and has announced neither preliminary findings nor disciplinary measures against any soldiers involved.
The CIA inspector general is investigating the death of another detainee in eastern Kunar province in June 2003.
On Friday, a senior military official told reporters in Washington that two more deaths in Afghanistan were among at least 37 scrutinized by the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002.
One involved a man called Abdul Wahid, who died Nov. 6, 2003, in Helmand province, the official said on condition of anonymity. His death was attributed to multiple blunt force injuries which were complicated by a muscle condition.
In the other, a soldier shot and killed an Afghan who had lunged toward a weapon, the official said.
Mansager said he was unaware of either of the new cases.
Jacoby, a decorated West Point graduate who the military said had served in the army for nearly 26 years, arrived in Afghanistan in April.
His review is to run independently of the investigations into alleged abuse and the deaths in custody.