Karzai rejects call to end death penalty but says life sentencing better
Associated Press / April 21, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan – President Hamid Karzai expressed reservations Monday about imposing the death penalty but rejected calls to abolish capital punishment in his country.
“I am very slow in approving the orders for executions,” Karzai said. “I prefer life sentencing because that would serve as a better lesson.”
The Supreme Court recently upheld rulings by lower courts to sentence about 100 people to death, despite concerns that the fledgling legal system does not ensure fair trials. Karzai must give final approval for executions to take place.
However, in cases such as kidnappings and killings of innocents, Karzai said he would follow Shariah, or Islamic law, which sanctions capital punishment.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said last week that Afghanistan does not meet international standards for due process and fair trials in capital cases, and urged Karzai to suspend the death penalty immediately.
The Taliban – which earned notoriety for conducting public executions during their rule – has demanded a halt in executions as some of their captured fighters are believed to be on death row.
But any move to end the death penalty could back fire politically for Karzai. Capital punishment enjoys strong support among Afghanistan’s deeply conservative population.
In October 2007, 15 people convicted of crimes were executed by gunfire inside a prison complex outside Kabul. The 15 were Afghanistan’s first state-sanctioned executions since the ouster of the Taliban by U.S.-led forces in the late 2001.
The United Nations criticized the executions, but Afghan authorities said they would continue the practice.