UN criticizes Afghan decision to free rapists
By AMIR SHAH
August 28, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan – The United Nations has criticized Afghanistan’s government for freeing two men convicted of raping a woman in northern Afghanistan after they served only a portion of their 11-year sentences.
The release of the men will send the wrong message to other perpetrators of violent crimes against women, Norah Niland, the U.N.’s chief human rights officer in Afghanistan, said in a statement this week.
Three brothers who were fighters for a regional militia commander were convicted of raping a woman in the village of Ruyi Du Ab in the northern province of Samangan in 2005, Afghan officials said.
The militia commander, named Karim, was a stepbrother of the woman’s husband, said Habib Rahman, the head of criminal investigations in Samangan. Rahman said the rape was carried out because of tribal disputes.
After raping the woman and cutting her with a knife, the brothers took her pants and hoisted them on top of a mosque, Rahman said. They forced her to walk home partly naked, he said.
Shortly afterward, Karim went into hiding. The three were convicted and sentenced in 2006 to 11 years in prison, according to the provincial governor, Enayatullah Enayat.
Their sentence was upheld by Afghanistan’s Supreme Court, the U.N. said. One of the brothers died in custody, Rahman said.
Afghan officials said the mother of the rapists wrote to President Hamid Karzai after the death of one of her sons, asking him to pardon the other two. They were freed in March, Enayat said.
They are now “back in the neighborhood where the crime was perpetrated and where the victim and her family continue to live,” Niland said in a statement this week.
Although the circumstances of the release are not clear, “this is clearly an injustice against the victim, the victim’s family and all Afghan women,” Niland said in a statement.
But the U.N.’s Niland said freeing the convicts sends the wrong message to other crime victims. “Such injustice can only promote a culture of impunity for violence perpetrated against women,” Niland said.
Karzai was traveling abroad with his chief spokesman, and his office was not available to comment Thursday, but the U.N. said the Afghan government was investigating the circumstances of the release.
Associated Press writer Fisnik Abrashi in Kabul contributed to this report.