‘US had role in Taleban prisoner deaths’

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US SOLDIERS took part in the torture of Taleban prisoners and may have had a role in the "disappearance" of around 3,000 men in Mazar-i-Sharif in north-west Afghanistan, according to a new documentary.

Massacre at Mazar, by Scots film producer Jamie Doran, was shown on Wednesday in the Reichstag, the German parliament building in Berlin and the European parliament in Strasbourg.

Much of Mr Doran’s footage in the 20-minute preview of a future full-length documentary film was taken secretly.

In one sequence, a witness claims he saw a US soldier break an Afghan prisoner’s neck and pour acid on others.

"The Americans did whatever they wanted. We had no power to stop them." Some prisoners were beaten up, taken outside only to "disappear", the witness said.

Two other witnesses claim they were forced to drive into the desert with hundreds of Taleban prisoners who were in containers. The orders came from the local US commander, they alleged. Prisoners who had not suffocated to death were then shot dead while 30 to 40 US soldiers stood by watching.

In another sequence, a witness admits to having executed prisoners, while another Afghan, said to have been a senior officer under the Northern Alliance’s General Rashid Dostum, was said to have gone into hiding following threats to his life.

The screening of the film at the European Parliament in prompted calls for an international commission to investigate the charges.

Mr Doran told The Scotsman last night: "I took the footage to the European parliament because of a phone call I received from Afghanistan. I have a great fear that the graves may be tampered with. I had to take it to the highest level in Europe." He said that after the screening, MEPs had told him they would approach the Red Cross to ensure the graves were protected.

Mr Doran said his documentary followed closely the findings of a new report by the Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which had concluded that there was evidence of the disposal of human remains at two mass grave sites near Mazar-i-Sharif.

"Physicians for Human Rights tell me that the interviews we conducted for the documentary were the missing link they needed," Mr Doran said.

In the documentary, the witnesses says they believe the bodies at the site found near the village of Shebarghan included the Taleban prisoners who were transported to the site in the truck containers.

On its website, PHR calls on Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s new leader, and the international community to protect the grave sites. It says it recognises that the government of Afghanistan was not in a position to secure the sites but that the US, Britain and other countries had the capacity - and the responsibility - to ensure that they were protected.

"The examination of bodies and dignified burial of remains will contribute to the truth and accountability process, which is essential for future peace and stability in Afghanistan," PHR said.

Andy McEntee, former chairman of Amnesty International, who saw the film footage in Berlin and read the transcript, told DPA news agency that he believed there there was prima facie evidence of serious war crimes having been committed by US soldiers in Afghanistan. Mr McEntee said he believed the war crimes had been committed not only under international law but also under US law.

Amnesty International and other human rights organisations called last year for a public inquiry into the events at Mazar-i-Sharif after the surrender of Taleban forces there in late November. Hundreds of Taleban fighters were killed in what Northern Alliance forces said was a revolt.

Pictures of aid workers making their way through the corpses of Taleban prisoners caused international outrage at the time.

The foreign Taleban fighters, mostly Pakistanis, Chechens and Arabs, were being held at the Qaila Jangi fortress outside Mazar-i-Sharif after negotiating a surrender with Gen Dostum, who had said they would be allowed to cross the border into Pakistan. Afghans with the Taleban forces had already been allowed to return to their home villages.

According to US, British and Northern Alliance officials, a skirmish within the prison flared into a battle. Some media reports, however, have questioned this version of events.

Amnesty says responsibility for an inquiry lies with the United States and Britain as US and British special forces helped alliance troops put down the revolt.

Andre Brie, a member of the European Parliament for the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), said he would back any call for an international commission looking into the allegations. He said he had supported Mr Doran financially in what he described as the producer’s "dangerous film activity".

Excerpts of Mr Doran’s documentary are to be screened on television in Britain next week.