Afghanistan

Afghanistan: New report documents worst atrocities in three decades

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KABUL, 19 July (IRIN) - A new report by the Afghanistan Justice Project (AJP) attempts to document the worst atrocities, human rights abuses and war crimes committed during three decades of conflict. The 160-page document, entitled 'Casting Shadows: War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity 1978-2001' was released on Sunday in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

The crimes documented include large-scale massacres, disappearances and the summary execution of tens of thousands of Afghans. It also details indiscriminate bombing and rocketing that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, torture, mass rape and other atrocities.

"We have tried to document the most egregious [worst] incidents of war crimes and crimes against humanity from 1978 until 2001," said Patricia Gossman, the author of the report.

The AJP - an independent research and advocacy organization funded by the Open Society Institute, a US based philanthropic foundation - has documented incidents in which senior officers and commanders ordered actions amounting to war crimes by their forces, or allowed such actions to take place and did nothing to prevent or stop them, she added.

The report has not shied away from naming names: although many are dead or in exile, while many of those linked to the crimes are today participants in the internationally supported Afghan government.

Key figures cited in the report include former defence minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim, Karim Khalili one of President Hamid Karzai's vice-presidents, General Rashid Dostum, a senior advisor to Karzai, General Hamayoun Fauzi who currently holds a senior post in the defence ministry and notorious warlord Haji Sher Alam, newly appointed governor of Ghazni province.

"That does not translate into stability when you have commanders responsible for abuses in positions of responsibility and leadership," Grossman said, questioning the recent government appointment of Sher Alam as provincial governor of Ghazni.

"Sher Alam's appointment is appalling, given the amount of information available about him - he's well-known to the international community," the AJP rights activist noted.

Some Afghan human rights abusers are being brought to justice but in unlikely places. The ground-breaking trial of a notorious Afghan warlord at London's Central Criminal Court ended on Monday with 41-year-old Farayadi Sawar Zardad being convicted by a British jury of torture and hostage-taking in his homeland between 1991 and 1996.

The former warlord, who was accused of using "indiscriminate and unwarranted violence" as he and his soldiers ran checkpoints outside Kabul where they tortured murdered and stole from travellers, will be sentenced on Tuesday.

Zardad's conviction sets new precedents in terms of international law and could have implications for the acceptance of "universal jurisdiction" for certain types of crimes.

The AJP report follows a call earlier in July by Human Rights Watch (HRW) to 'bring war criminals to justice.'

The New York-based rights watchdog, in a 133-page report released on Friday, accused some high-ranking officials in the Afghan government of violating human rights during the civil war in the 1990s and demanded their trial. HRW identified Karim Khalili, a former militia commander and now one of Karzai's two vice-presidents as a war criminal.

[ENDS]

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