Accessibility links

Breaking News

Afghanistan: Red Cross Official Describes Prison Riot

Prisoners at the Pol-i Charkhi prison (file photo) (RFE/RL) Afghan authorities announced on March 1 that a violent prison siege in the Pol-e Charkhi prison outside Kabul ended after all of the some 1,300 prisoners were moved to a new jail block under police control. An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team has been present at the prison since February 26 to assess the needs for protection and assistance and to provide support for the various parties concerned. RFE/RL Prague correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari spoke to the ICRC representative in Kabul, Olivier Moeckli, about the situation in the prison after four days of riots.

RFE/RL: What is the situation in the prison now?

Olivier Moeckli: Well, now the situation is quiet again, things are back more or less to normal. One of the blocks where the riots happened has been emptied and the prisoners have agreed to be relocated to stop the riot so they are now in another wing. There is some work to do to make this wing really acceptable regarding the conditions, so the ICRC is today present in the prison again to assess what can be done, especially for water and sanitation.

RFE/RL: What is the latest figure you have regarding the number of casualties?

Moeckli: Six people were killed and 22 people were injured, two of them being in a critical condition. An Italian NGO called "Emergency" took care of the wounded and some have been transferred to the emergency hospital, some have been [treated] on the spot.

RFE/RL: Are the casualties the result of the use of force by authorities?

Moeckli: Yes of course, [there were] a few assaults against the prisoners. The ICRC was present throughout all the riots since Sunday morning (26 February) and we have been constantly in contact with all parties and advising them not to use force and violence and we must say that largely this was quite successful, the use of force was mainly during the first evening on Saturday and then fortunately everything went quite easily.

RFE/RL: What were the main demands of the prisoners?

Moeckli: The main thing was the fact they are now forced to wear [uniforms, and they object to this]; recently there was an escape during family visits and the prisoners were until very recently wearing their normal clothes and they have [now] been provided with uniforms and we of their main demands [was to not have to wear these uniforms]. There have been also demands regarding the conditions, food and water; things we also constantly discuss with authorities and finally some have asked for a review of their [cases].

RFE/RL: Do you think the demands and complaints regarding the living conditions in the prison are going to be addressed?

Moeckli: We hope so. It's true that conditions in Afghan prisons are not good as Afghanistan is a very poor country and has been severely damaged by years of war. The ICRC has issued an assessment report in January and has encouraged the donors to provide funding for the amelioration of prisons. We are very hopeful that this will be tackled in the coming months.

RFE/RL: Could you describe the conditions in Pol-e Charkhi prison?

Moeckli: The water-system sanitation, all this was quite OK; [the] ICRC had worked and assisted the authorities in repairing the wings where the prisoners were held and now that they had to move, they are in a wing where quite heavy work needs to be done. So it's a very old building; the facilities, the toilets, the water pipes have been damaged over time and quite a lot of repairs need to be done.

RFE/RL Afghanistan Report

RFE/RL Afghanistan Report

SUBSCRIBE For regular news and analysis on Afghanistan by e-mail, subscribe to "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report."