Top UN human rights official urges halt to Afghan executions

11 November 2008
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

The United Nations human rights chief voiced her dismay today after several prisoners were put to death in Afghanistan in recent days and urged the Government to stop any further planned executions.

Five convicted prisoners are known to have been executed – on orders signed by President Hamid Karzai – over the past four days in the country, which 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,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

“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 latest killings are the first State-implemented executions in Afghanistan since October 2007, when the Government carried out death sentences on 15 prisoners. Two months later, in December 2007, the General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a global moratorium on the death penalty.

Ms. Pillay urged Mr. Karzai “to call a halt to any further executions and to rejoin the growing international consensus for a moratorium on the death penalty.”

She also encouraged the Government to join the other 68 States that have acceded to the Additional Protocol II of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires the abolition of the death penalty.


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