Call for NZ to take responsibility for harsh Afghan justice

By Cassandra Mason

Photo / File
Photo / File

New Zealand needs to take responsibility for its human rights obligations in Afghanistan following the executions of 14 men in an Kabul prison this week, local advocates say.

Since the Taliban fell in 2001, executions in the country have been rare.

However, 14 prisoners were hanged in Kabul this week, raising questions about the New Zealand's on-going support for the Afghan government.

Afghanistan officials say those executed were criminals guilty of serious offences, and not linked to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, the BBC reported.

Their offences included rape and "crimes against the people, especially women and children".

But concerns around the Afghan justice system are raising questions in New Zealand.

Amnesty International's New Zealand executive director Grant Bayldon says the widespread use of torture in to extract confessions means there is simply no way of guaranteeing a fair trial.

The New Zealand Government has had a "strong international voice" against the death penalty and Amnesty International believes it should be making its concerns known, he says.

Bayldon says New Zealanders need to be confident that their forces in Afghanistan aren't handing prisoners over to execution and while a Ministry of Defence report released last year states arrests are technically carried out by Afghan forces, Bayldon says this could be seen as a "clever way to avoid responsibility".

"Amnesty International doesn't believe that would wash with most new Zealanders and it's not even certain that it would stand up in international human rights law.

"Even if we don't put on the handcuffs, we still have responsibilites."

Given the world trend is moving away from the death penalty, the direction Afghanistan is heading is "deeply disturbing", he says.

Amnesty International is calling for an independent investigation into the operations by the SAS which involve the transfer of prisoners to the Afghan forces.

The Green Party is also urging the Government to protest the death penalty in Afghanistan.

"Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman should seek formal assurances from Afghan authorities that no prisoners handed over by New Zealand's Defence Forces will suffer the death penalty," Green Party global affairs spokesperson Dr Kennedy Graham said today.

"The resumption of the use of the death penalty by the Karzai regime is yet another reason why it is time to bring our soldiers back from Afghanistan now."

The United Nation has also decried the executions.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has issued a statement condemning the executions, calling on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to end capital punishment.

"I urge President Karzai to show that the rule of law can also be built on clemency and humanity, and that Afghanistan too will join the worldwide trend against the death penalty," he said.

The Ministry of Defence could not be contacted for comment.

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