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Cablegate: Un Special Rapporteur Takes Aim at the Coalition

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3963
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RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

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E.O. 12958: N/A
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SUBJECT: UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR TAKES AIM AT THE COALITION

1. (U) SUMMARY: Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on
Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, concluded a 12-day
fact-finding visit to Afghanistan May 15. The main themes of his
preliminary report are: increasing the transparency of
international military forces' investigations of collateral casualty
incidents; increasing the accountability of "campaign forces"
responsible to intelligence agencies; reforming the Afghan police
and the judicial system; curbing Taliban and other anti-government
elements' abuses; and addressing the often-overlooked extrajudicial
killing of women. His final report will be released several months
from now, after it is sent to the IRoA for comment and to the UN.

Preliminary Report Summary
--------------------------

2. (U) Alston's preliminary report notes no evidence that
international forces commit widespread intentional extra-judicial
killings. He confirms international forces' efforts to respect
international human rights and humanitarian law. He focuses on
accountability and transparency issues surrounding the estimated 200
unintentional civilian deaths associated with international forces'
military operations in 2008. Alston complains that the many
distinct chains of command, the continual rotation of troops and
commanders, and the fact that prosecuting crimes of individual
soldiers is the responsibility of their home country leads to a
complicated, opaque system in which ordinary Afghans have little
hope of identifying who may have killed an innocent family member.
No one in Afghanistan, either at ISAF or in the government, tracks
the outcome of investigations and prosecutions. Lack of
accountability is especially pronounced, according to Alston, with
regard to "campaign forces," which, he says, appear to be controlled
by foreign intelligence services.

3. (U) The police are the face of the government to the people,
Alston argues; therefore, legitimacy of the government depends on
their behavior. Because the police are often drawn predominantly
from one tribe, they tend to act to promote the interests of their
kin at the expense of competing tribes. No one in the government
has any interest in investigating, let alone prosecuting, police
officers responsible for abuses, Alston charges. Elders in the
south repeatedly told Alston that police abuses are causing people
to support the Taliban. Senior IRoA and international officials
told Alston that ensuring government security forces' respect for
basic human rights is prerequisite to ensuring security and
stability.

4. (U) According to Alston's preliminary report, the criminal
justice system is deeply flawed with endemic corruption and is
incapable of ensuring respect for due process rights. Carrying out
death sentences on this basis clearly violates international legal
standards, he says. The problems in the criminal justice system are
multiplied exponentially for women. A roomful of women in Kandahar
laughed when Alston asked with whom they could lodge a complaint if
they encountered abuse within the home. They noted that even
leaving the home would be difficult and complaining to the police
would only lead to further punishment and imprisonment for running
away. The often overlooked affect of armed conflict on women leads
to disaster; when men are killed the women left behind are usually
destitute. Many women are not even aware of the possibility of
receiving monetary assistance from government or ISAF for their
losses. While honor killings are very common, they are rarely
reported or investigated.

5. (SBU) Alston's preliminary report charges Taliban attacks on
military targets with killing hundreds of civilians bystanders
"unlawfully" in 2008. He is highly critical of the Taliban's
targeted assassinations of civilians. Alston advocates contact
between human rights actors and insurgents to impress upon the
latter their responsibility to uphold international human rights
standards. He acknowledged privately to us such contact risks
conferring political legitimacy on the insurgents.

Preliminary Recommendations
---------------------------

7. (U) International Forces: Ensure that any directly affected
person can go to a military base and promptly receive answers to
such questions as who was responsible for a particular operation and
what the status is of any investigation or prosecution.

Police: Recognize that training alone will not prevent abuses that
are driven by the links between police officers and particular
tribes, commanders, and politicians. These links must be broken.
All efforts to supplement the police by establishing or legitimizing
local militias should be abandoned. The police must play both a law
enforcement and paramilitary role; continued debate on this is
counterproductive. Establish a strong national police investigative
task force. Strengthen the Afghan Independent Human Rights
Commission's (AIHRC) investigative powers; impose an obligation on
the government to respond to AIHRC findings within a set time
limit.

Judicial Reform: Establish an independent anti-corruption agency
and endow it with the necessary powers and resources to prosecute
important cases at all levels. Make the criminal justice system
accessible to women, including through support to initiatives such
as the Jalalabad and Parwan women's referral centers. Have the
Attorney General establish a special office for female victims.
Treat honor killings as murders.

Taliban and other armed groups: Serious efforts should be made to
pressure and persuade the Taliban and other armed groups to respect
human rights and humanitarian law, even at the risk of conferring
political legitimacy on them.

8. (U) We expect Alston's nine-page preliminary report to be posted
on the UN webpage shortly. Once it is posted we will provide the
Department with the Internet address.

WOOD

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