UN concerned over execution of prisoners in Afghanistan
By Sajad - Thu Nov 22 2012, 10:07 pm
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Thursday expressed serious concern about the executions of 14 prisoners at the Pul-e-Charkhi prison on the outskirts of Kabul on 20 and 21 November.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly approved the executions following a review of their cases by a Presidential committee established to review the cases of more than 250 prisoners sentenced to death. Those executed were convicted of serious crimes, including murder, rape and national security crimes. The last such execution in Afghanistan was carried out in June 2011.
Deficiencies in Afghanistan’s judicial procedures raise serious concerns about the trials of those who were sentenced to death. The United Nations has repeatedly raised concerns about the justice system in Afghanistan, particularly its routine failure to meet international fair trial standards and due process guarantees under Afghan law. Afghanistan’s justice system relies primarily on confessions, including some obtained through the use of torture.
“Under international law and Afghanistan’s own treaty obligations, the death penalty must be reserved for the most serious crimes and only applied after the most rigorous judicial process,” the High Commissioner said. “In the past, shortcomings in the Afghan judicial procedure have raised serious questions about such cases.”
The resumption of executions in Afghanistan comes in sharp contrast to the general trend world-wide towards ending the use of capital punishment. Just two days ago, in New York, a record 110 countries voted in favour of the latest General Assembly resolution calling for the abolition of the death penalty.
Around 150 countries have either abolished capital punishment or have instituted a moratorium. An increasingly large number of countries have acknowledged that the death penalty undermines human dignity, and that its abolition, or at least a moratorium on its use, contributes to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights.
“Afghans have already suffered the brutalizing effects of decades of war and the right to life — the most fundamental of all human rights — is in desperate need of reinforcement in a country plagued by killing and violence,” the High Commissioner said. “More and more countries are recognizing that the death penalty does harm to society. I urge President Karzai to show that the rule of law can also be built on clemency and humanity, and that Afghanistan too will join the worldwide trend against the death penalty.”
In a separate development, the High Commissioner also added her disappointment at the execution in India of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab who was convicted for his role in the terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008. This is the first execution carried out in India since 2004.
“There can be no question of the gravity of the crimes committed in Mumbai, but in equally serious crimes, International Tribunals have imposed sentences of life imprisonment,” the High Commissioner said. “The Supreme Court of India has sanctioned the death penalty in only the ‘rarest of the rare’ cases, but I hope that India too will move towards total abolition.”