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UN Envoy Concerned Over U.S. Detention Centers In Afghanistan

Afghan prisoners leave the U.S. detention center at Bagram Airfield in 2006.
KABUL, Aug 2 (Reuters) - The UN special envoy has expressed concern over the conditions in detention centers in Afghanistan, saying they must be brought up to international standards to prevent further radicalization of detainees.

Kai Eide, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy to Afghanistan, said he had visited one facility in the capital Kabul and planned to visit several more, including the prison at Bagram, the main U.S. military base.

Bagram prison has become a symbol of detainee abuses for Afghans after the deaths of two detainees in 2002. In June, the BBC reported allegations of abuse and neglect at the facility after interviewing 27 former inmates.

"I have been concerned about the situation in detention centers," Eide told a news conference in Kabul on August 2. "It's important that the situations for detainees are such that they are in accordance with international laws, international standards, and that they do not lead to further radicalization," he said.

It was too early to draw any lasting conclusions after only visiting one facility, Eide said, but the United Nations would be appealing to international donors and the Afghan government to allocate more resources to improve conditions.

Eide said U.S. authorities had so far been positive and he was waiting for them to confirm a date for him to visit Bagram. More than 600 prisoners are held at Bagram's makeshift prison, and a $60 million prison complex is planned.

Eide said families of detainees needed to be given as much information as possible about where relatives were being held and under what circumstances. Detainees must also not be held without access to due process, he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been visiting detainees at Bagram since the beginning of 2002 and says most of the prisoners are Afghans captured by U.S. forces in the south and east, traditional Taliban strongholds.

In 2008, the ICRC was also allowed to visit prisoners at smaller U.S. detention sites, where detainees are often held before being transferred to Bagram.

The ICRC does not publicly release its findings on prison conditions but raises them directly with those in charge of the facilities, it says, to maintain access to the detainees.

A U.S. military report on detainees in Afghanistan last month recommended that detention facilities separate religious militants from each other and the general prison population to prevent Islamist radicalization in Afghan and U.S. prisons.

The U.S Defense Department has said conditions at Bagram meet international standards, but rights group Amnesty International has openly criticized the United States over the detainees' lack of access to legal representation.