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Executions in Afghanistan a step backwards for human rights

23 November 2012

Executions in Afghanistan a step backwards for human rights

The Afghan Government’s confirmation that it has executed 14 prisoners is a huge step backwards Amnesty International has said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai approved the executions on 20 November. This marks the first use of the death penalty in Afghanistan since June 2011.

“It is extremely regrettable that President Karzai has decided to go ahead with these 14 executions,” said Grant Bayldon, Executive Director of Amnesty International.

“The world trend is away from the death penalty - less and less countries are executing each year. It’s deeply disturbing to see Afghanistan moving in the wrong direction.”

“This rush to execute so many prompts the question - why now? In recent years, the Afghan Government had avoided executions. Karzai is certainly under some pressure now to demonstrate he can maintain the rule of law in Afghanistan, and advance reconciliation talks with the Taleban. Could these executions be more about political gain than justice?”

“The death penalty is deplorable under any circumstance, and even more troubling given the seriously flawed Afghan justice system. Detainees are frequently tortured into confessions then relied upon by a judiciary that has little to no independence. Meanwhile serious human rights violations go unpunished. There is simply no guarantee of a fair trial,” said Bayldon.

The executions have also prompted Amnesty International to renew its call to the New Zealand Government to carry out an independent investigation into the operations by the New Zealand SAS and their potential complicity in torture.

“New Zealanders need to be confident that our forces in Afghanistan are not involved in the transferal of detainees where they will be at risk of being tortured,” said Bayldon.

“The Defence Minister has reported that where the New Zealand SAS is involved in capturing detainees in joint operations with Afghan forces, the actual technical arrest is carried out by Afghan forces. This is a grey area that may be seen as the New Zealand Government trying to try to avoid its international obligations,” added Bayldon.

“The recent executions show the grave human rights concerns that remain ongoing in Afghanistan and highlight the severe consequences for detainees if New Zealand gets it wrong.”

“New Zealand has worked to promote and protect human rights through it’s presence in Afghanistan and the work with the Provincial Reconstruction Team and has been a strong international voice against the death penalty. It’s important they maintain this stance and raise their concerns with the Afghan Government following these recent executions,” said Bayldon.

Notes to Editors:

Please see below to read Amnesty International previous statement’s on the New Zealand SAS’s potential complicity in torture:

• 02 April 2012 - http://www.amnesty.org.nz/news/failure-provide-independent-investigation-leaves-new-zealand-dark-over-its-human-rights-record

• 19 November 2011 - http://www.amnesty.org.nz/news/op-ed-failure-act-casts-shadow-over-our-rights-record

• 02 May 2011 - http://www.amnesty.org.nz/news/nzsass-complicity-torture

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