The Human Rights Watch (HRW) reacted towards the deportation of the notorious commander of Hezb-e-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, expressing concerns regarding the dangers posed by commander Faryadi Zardad to the witnesses.
The deportation of Commander Faryadi Zardad from the UK to Afghanistan on December 14 poses a clear danger for witnesses who testified against the former warlord in his 2005 conviction for torture and hostage taking, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
The rights group further added that UK government should take immediate measures to protect witnesses, including by expediting asylum procedures and relocation outside Afghanistan. The Afghan government should impose parole restrictions on Zardad, and the UK and Afghan authorities should scrupulously monitor his compliance in order to protect those witnesses who remain in Afghanistan.
“Zardad, who was prosecuted by UK authorities under English law implementing the Convention against Torture, for the crimes of hostage taking and torture committed in Afghanistan in the 1990s, was recently paroled after serving 11 years of a 20-year prison sentence. He arrived in Kabul on December 14, and was reportedly taken into custody by the National Directorate of Security (NDS). A crowd of supporters, at least one armed, assembled inside the security perimeter of the airport carrying signs welcoming him home as a hero,” a statement by HRW said.
The statement added that those who testified at Zardad’s trial have expressed concerns for the safety of witnesses and their families. Some witnesses learned of Zardad’s imminent arrival only days before he returned. The Metropolitan Police stated that they had been making efforts to contact all witnesses; however, not all had been reached.
According to HRW, those who testified at Zardad’s trial have expressed concerns for the safety of witnesses and their families. Some witnesses learned of Zardad’s imminent arrival only days before he returned. The Metropolitan Police stated that they had been making efforts to contact all witnesses; however, not all had been reached.
Zardad was the first person prosecuted in the UK for the crime of torture under universal jurisdiction laws, which allow for the prosecution of crimes committed in another state. A 2004 trial ended in a mistrial when the jury failed to reach a verdict. Following a second trial in 2005, during which many of Zardad’s victims testified by video link from the UK embassy in Kabul, Zardad was found guilty and sentenced to two 20-year sentences to be served concurrently. The head of the Scotland Yard investigation, who located witnesses in Afghanistan, told The Guardian that to convince the witnesses to testify, his team had to “give them the confidence to come forward to give evidence in a British court.” The witnesses were not represented by lawyers.
A UK diplomat at the embassy in Kabul told Human Rights Watch in 2014 that Zardad would not be paroled. While reports of his imminent return surfaced in Kabul in October 2016, neither the UK or Afghan government made any official public notification of Zardad’s imminent parole and deportation prior to his return to Kabul.
Human Rights Watch does not know of any measures that have been taken to protect witnesses from retaliation from Zardad, or to impose restrictions on his release to prevent him from intimidating or harming witnesses, although it is not clear how any such restrictions would be implemented.
“Zardad has contacts in high places, and Afghan police and intelligence officials have long enjoyed impunity despite well documented systematic torture and other abuses,” Gossman said. “Relocation of witnesses outside the country is likely to be the only way to protect those most at risk of reprisals.”