General Abdul Rashid Dostum gave a recorded statement to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty today in which he denies that any Taliban or al-Qaeda prisoners were abused in November 2001 by troops under his command. "It is impossible that Taliban or Al-Qaeda prisoners could have been abused", he says. "Our doctors in Sheberghan, the U.S. medical team, and officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the city of Konduz all helped prisoners who were injured by bombardments on the front lines. Most of them were saved from death. I repeat once again that I had given very clear orders for all of our troops in the Northern United Front to treat prisoners well."
The statement is challenged by a separate statement from Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director for Amnesty International, who questions many of Dostum's assertions. It is curious that there is no direct interview with Dostum. My guess is that he refused to allow himself to be cross-examined by a reporter and only agreed to an uncut recorded statement.
If the General is so convinced that no prisoners were abused, then it is hard to see why he should object to a full inquiry into the matter. To date he has strongly opposed such an inquiry.
One thing however, is clear. He says he is returning to Afghanistan: "I want to assure you all that General Dostum will soon be among the heroic peoples of Afghanistan. The way of struggle is never a smooth path. It is always a road with highs and lows. General Dostum has seen many of these highs and lows. Spreading such rumours will never have an impact on his strong will."