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More than 100 awaiting execution in Afghanistan

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November 11, 2008

KABUL (Reuters) – More than 100 convicted murderers, rapists and kidnappers are on death row in Afghanistan awaiting President Hamid Karzai to sign the orders for their execution, a senior judge said on Tuesday.

Crimes such as kidnapping, rape and killing have sharply increased in recent years in Afghanistan where the Taliban , ousted in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, carried out public executions for similar acts.

Five people have been executed since Saturday after Karzai approved the sentences following repeated appeals from many ordinary Afghans to mete out the punishment as enshrined in the country’s constitution and ordered by Islam.

“We have 125 people who have been sentenced by various courts to the death penalty and are to be executed after Karzai’s approval,” said a senior Supreme Court judge who declined to be named.

An official at the presidential palace confirmed that lists of those sentenced to death by the courts have been sent to the president for him to approve their execution.

(Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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November 12, 2008 at 5:35 am

Posted in Human Rights

Afghanistan: Human trafficking survey documents abuse, recommends action

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Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

September 12, 2008

IOM today launched a field survey report on trafficking in persons in
Afghanistan. The findings will be shared with relevant Afghan government
ministries and other partners to develop effective future counter trafficking
strategies.

The research provides an in-depth analysis of the trafficking phenomenon in,
from and to Afghanistan, based on first-hand data collected mainly from expert
interviews and a field survey conducted in Kabul and nine border provinces.

It represents the first attempt to interview a wide range of victims and
actors and is an important addition to an initial report on human trafficking in
Afghanistan published by IOM in 2004.

“We know that trafficking gravely affects Afghanistan from anecdotal evidence
and from cases which we have assisted, but actual data and analysis has been
very scarce until now,” says Nigina Mamadjonova, IOM Afghanistan’s Counter
Trafficking Programme Manager.

Among the factors making Afghan people extremely vulnerable to human
trafficking are more than two decades of conflict, the subsequent loss of lives
and livelihoods, prolonged economic instability and deteriorating security.

The report discusses these push factors and the demographics of trafficked
victims, including age, gender, place of origin and educational background, in
comparison with smuggled migrants and victims of kidnapping.

It also analyzes trafficking methods and destinations. Recognizing that some
elements of control and exploitation were experienced by all victims of
trafficking, regardless of their nationality or gender, the patterns and extent
of violence are also closely examined.

The report also looks at the roles of key counter trafficking partners,
particularly the Government of Afghanistan, in order to recognize achievements
and identify gaps in the areas of prevention, law enforcement and protection of
victims. It also recommends short- to medium-term action to combat the problem.

The report is currently available in English and will soon be made available
in Dari and Pashto. Copies can be obtained from the office of IOM Afghanistan or
downloaded from:

http://www.iom.int/jahia/webdav/shared/shared/mainsite/activities/countries/
docs/afghanistan/iom report trafficking_afghanistan.pdf

For further information, please contact Nigina Mamadjonova at IOM Kabul, Tel
+ 93 (0) 700 066041, Email: nmamadjonova@iom.int or Katsui Kaya, Tel +93 (0) 700 18596, Email: kkaya@iom.int

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September 13, 2008 at 3:23 am

Posted in Human Rights

In Afghanistan, Rape Victims Begin To Break The Silence

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September 01, 2008

By Farangis Najibullah
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Sobbing and barely able to speak, a teenage girl from Afghanistan’s northern Takhar province describes the horror of being gang-raped at gunpoint.

“They raped me for three days and nights. I felt like I was going crazy,” she said. “They forced me to drink alcohol. I couldn’t get up. They had guns, knives. They were so cruel and brutal. I screamed and cried, but they didn’t care.”

Many others in Afghanistan have undergone similar ordeals. But the true numbers are not known, because victims and their families usually prefer to remain silent, fearing a lifetime of disgrace in their conservative society.

In recent months, however, some victims’ families have begun to break the silence, and their calls for justice have prompted President Hamid Karzai to acknowledge the problem.

Sheila Samimi, a member of the Afghan Women’s Network (ANW) — a group that brings together dozens of women’s organizations — tells RFE/RL that in just the first three months of this year, there were 112 reported rape cases involving girls under the age of 17. Most of the reported cases have taken place in Afghanistan’s northern provinces, including Sari Pol, Jowzjan, and Takhar. According to Samimi, there are thousands more such cases across Afghanistan, where “raped women, girls, and even boys have chosen to keep it secret.”

The victims’ silence is driven not only by fear of disgrace, but also because in many cases, the assailants are powerful and well-connected people with ties to armed groups or government officials, according to Afghan rights activists.

But as victims begin to come forward, private television channels have publicized their stories through programs about adolescent girls and their families suffering the after-effects of rape.

In one testimony, the parents of one 11-year-old girl who was raped by five armed men in Sari Pol Province said the entire family wanted to commit suicide because they “were not able to protect their child.”

After this interview and others were broadcast on television and posted on feminist websites, Karzai met with two rape victims and their relatives. Karzai promised to crack down on rape and bring assailants to justice — “to face the country’s most severe punishment,” meaning the death penalty.

High-Level Attention

In Sari Pol, five officials, including the chief of security and high-ranking police officers, were sacked shortly after Karzai’s statement in early August.

In Takhar Province, police arrested six men, including border guard officers, in connection with the rape of the teenage girl.

ANW representatives recently met with Afghan Vice President Ahmad Zia Masood to ask the government to punish offenders and find ways to prevent the crime.

Following the ANW initiative, Afghan state television has started to air weekly programs about rape and other crimes against women. Program producers usually invite police officers, high-ranking authorities, and community leaders to take part in the discussion.

Samimi said the ANW has started a nationwide campaign to put pressure on the authorities not to allow offenders to go free.

Many religious leaders and imams have also agreed to participate in the campaign and address the issue in their sermons. At the same time, the ANW is seeking to raise women’s awareness about their rights. “We tell them to go to the police instead of suffering in silence,” Samimi said.

But the campaign has yet to make an impact on some institutions. “In Sari Pol Province, a family member of a local parliamentarian raped a 12-year-old girl,” Samimi said. “But he walks free because the police wouldn’t dare to arrest him.”

“Afghanistan doesn’t yet have a proper police system. It’s a country coming out of war and there are many problems in such countries,” Samimi said. “We don’t have the rule of law and therefore the [lawmaker] doesn’t allow the court to try his son. He has power and influence, and he threatened the victim’s family that if they complained, there would be consequences.”

In some other cases, jailed rapists simply bribe their way out of prison. And victims’ families worry that assailants could take retribution against the victim for her testimony.

Samimi says such incidents are threatening the rights that Afghan women have won after the fall of the hard-line Taliban. “Some people say the Taliban wouldn’t allow girls to go to school or work, but at least under the Taliban, girls wouldn’t be raped with impunity,” she said.

A very young girl from Jowzjan Province recently came to the local police station along with her mother. She accused a neighbor of raping her and pleaded with the police to punish him.

“What he did to me was wicked,” she told Radio Free Afghanistan from the police station. “I want the government to kill this man. But the government doesn’t listen to me.”

Women’s’ rights activists hope that this young girl and others like her can eventually find justice and feel secure that the government will protect them.

RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report

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September 3, 2008 at 3:01 am

Posted in Human Rights

Aussies dismiss Afghan abuse charges

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Press TV (Iran)
Fri, 29 Aug 2008 21:38:42 GMT

The Australian military investigators have cleared its combat troops of beating or humiliating prisoners detained in war-torn Afghanistan.

The inquiry by Colonel David Connery, in a report released Friday, found that medical evidence and witness statements did not support the allegations.” Based on the evidence available to me I do not believe any of the detainees were beaten up, stripped naked or mistreated by the Australian FE (force element) on April 29-30, 2008.”

He added while the men may have been “manhandled” during detention and tactical questioning, the lack of significant physical injuries led him to conclude that the force used against each detainee was “reasonable and humane.”

The accusations related to the treatment of four suspected insurgents, including a 70-year-old man and a 25-year-old with only one leg, who were held in the southern province of Uruzgan following a battle with Taliban fighters.

Among the complaints leveled against the Australian troops were that the detainees were “stripped naked, beaten and mistreated” and that they had been subjected to “too rough” handling.

The Australian Defense Force was forced to investigate the claims after an Afghan army officer objected to the treatment of the prisoners and complained to a senior Afghan national army commander. The young officer had seen a an old man, who was not wearing trousers when captured, and a disabled man being detained and secured overnight in walled pens.

Australia has about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Earlier, the Australian military had cleared its troops of any wrongdoing in a battle in Afghanistan last November during which two women and a baby were killed.

The report is bound to worsen relations between the Afghan government and the US alliance forces stationed in the country, analysts say.

The report also came after the Afghan government said on Monday it would renegotiate the terms of US-led troops in the country following hundreds of reports of civilian deaths by torture.The cabinet is also demanding US-led troops halt air strikes on civilians, illegal detentions and unilateral house searches.

According to an official count some 3,200 people have been killed in the violence-wracked country so far this year, most of them civilians.

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September 3, 2008 at 2:58 am

Posted in Human Rights

Australian troops held Taliban suspects in dog pen

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By KRISTEN GELINEAU
Associated Press / September 2, 2008

SYDNEY, Australia – Australian special forces in Afghanistan detained four suspected Taliban militants captured in April in pens sometimes used to hold dogs, the defense minister said Tuesday.

Many Muslims consider dogs impure and the head of Australia’s main Islamic group strongly criticized the actions of the special forces. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Australia Amanullah Jayhoon said the reports were troubling but stopped short of criticizing the soldiers.

Australian Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon defended the special forces, saying the detainees arrested on April 29 were held in the most secure place available before they were transported to a detention center in the town of Tarin Kowt in southern Uruzgan province. He confirmed the four suspected insurgents were held for 24 hours in a compound occasionally used to house dogs.

“Our people were patrolling far away from our main base in Tarin Kowt near one of our forward operating bases. They did detain people suspected of the worst and most atrocious acts. And they detained them in the most practical way available to them at the time,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Fitzgibbon said it was misleading to characterize the holding facility as a dog pen.

“They were in a compound I’ve had described to me as a walled compound which I’m sure is used for a variety of purposes,” he told ABC. “I’m advised that the compound is from time to time used to hold dogs, yes. Dogs are a very important part of our operations there.”

The revelation follows complaints by an Afghan soldier about mistreatment of the detainees, who were held following a battle with Taliban fighters. An Australian defense inquiry last week found that medical evidence and witness statements did not support allegations of abuse.

“It is quite appalling that the Australian soldiers are in any way caught up in the inhumane treatment of human beings — irrespective of who they are,” said Ikebal Patel, head of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. “I think it’s quite despicable that something like that could happen and that the Australians are party to it.”

But the Australian admission may not stir such a negative reaction in Afghanistan, where people are less averse to dogs than in many other Muslim countries. Afghans are accustomed to seeing dogs on the street and dog fighting is a popular pastime in the country.

“It is a matter of concern because … it provides propaganda for the Taliban, and at the same time it is not good to treat a human being inhumanely,” said the Afghan ambassador Jayhoon. “(But) we have not launched any formal protest.”

The Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman and the provincial police chief in Uruzgan, where Australian troops operate, said they had not heard of the allegations. There are 1,000 Australian troops in Afghanistan.

Brig. Brian Dawson, a defense department spokesman, said one of the four detainees was released the following day after it was decided he was not a threat. The three others were handed over to Dutch authorities who manage the Tarin Kowt facility. Dawson said he did not know the detainees’ current whereabouts or status.

Bob Brown, leader of Australia’s opposition Greens party, criticized the Australian troops.

“For Australia to find itself keeping prisoners in dog kennels, dog pens — even overnight — is a big mistake,” he told reporters in Canberra.

__

Associated Press reporter Amir Shah in Kabul contributed to this report.

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September 3, 2008 at 2:48 am

Posted in Human Rights

UN criticizes Afghan decision to free rapists

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By AMIR SHAH
Associated Press
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.

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Associated Press writer Fisnik Abrashi in Kabul contributed to this report.

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August 29, 2008 at 2:48 am

Afghan inquiry into freed rapists

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Wednesday, 27 August 2008 06:44 UK

By Kate Clark
BBC News

An Afghan woman in Kabul on August 25, 2008
Human rights groups say women in Afghanistan suffer abuse with impunity

The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, has announced a full investigation into the case of two rapists who have been freed on a presidential pardon.

The case was raised by the BBC after it discovered that the victim, Sara, had been forced into hiding by the release of the men.

Sara and husband Dilawar only found out the rapists had been freed when they saw them walking around their village.

The case highlights the endemic corruption in the Afghan legal system.

‘Questionable justice’

Dilawar said they were stunned, particularly when they found out President Karzai had apparently pardoned the rapists.

“Our appeal to the president is how on earth a rapist who was involved in disappearance of my son was released. What a decision is this? What a justice system is this?” he said.

The president’s office has refused to speculate on how the pardon could have been signed.

But the suspicion must be that corruption – which is widespread across the Afghan justice system – has managed to penetrate the president’s office.

A spokesman for Mr Karzai told the BBC that the acting attorney general would lead a commission of investigation.

“We are taking this with extreme seriousness,” he said.

It had been a horrifying case which started with the, as yet, unsolved disappearance of the couple’s son.

Dilawar said after his wife publicly accused a local commander of the disappearance, she was gang-raped, knifed with a bayonet and left half naked to find her way home.

Sara alleges the commander used connections to escape justice and he was released by a local court.

But three other men were eventually put on trial, found guilty of rape and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

One of them died and the other two were given a presidential pardon in May.

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August 28, 2008 at 2:48 am