The five prisoners known to have been executed so far, on orders signed by President Karzai, are the first state-implemented executions in Afghanistan since October 2007 when the Government carried out death sentences on 15 prisoners. Afghanistan had observed a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 2004.
"While recognizing the severity of the crimes with which these prisoners were charged, I am very concerned that the law enforcement and judicial systems in Afghanistan fall short of internationally accepted standards guaranteeing due process and fair trial," Pillay said. "Under these circumstances, there is a grave risk that there will be miscarriages of justice and that innocent people may be executed. The serious shortcomings in the police and judiciary have been well documented, and the Government has recognized this and committed itself to reform both branches of law enforcement."
The High Commissioner urged President Karzai "to call a halt to any further executions and to rejoin the growing international consensus for a moratorium on the death penalty." In December 2007, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium.
Pillay also encouraged the Government of Afghanistan to join the other 68 states that have acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.