UN rights office urges stay for defendants in Afghan gang-rape case sentenced to death

26 September 2014

The United Nations human rights office today urged the Government of Afghanistan to halt the death sentences in a case against a group of men charged with armed robbery, kidnapping and gang-rape in a province of Kabul.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed disappointment that the Afghan Supreme Court affirmed the death sentences given to five of the men, and also sentenced a sixth who had originally been given a 20-year sentence.

“While this is a horrible crime, we have been concerned about the lack of due process and the failure to comply with national and international fair trial standards in the proceedings,” spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

This decision denies proper justice to both the victims and the accused, she said, and also undermines efforts to strengthen the rule of law and administration of justice in the country.

“We urge both Afghanistan’s outgoing and incoming Presidents not to implement the death sentence in this case and refer the case back to courts given the due process concerns,” said Ms. Shamdasani.

The UN rights office also called on the Governments to resume a moratorium on executions pending full abolition of the death penalty.

In a high-level event yesterday in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other senior officials called the continuing application of capital punishment a “primitive” practice which has no place in the 21st century. They pressed global leaders to set course towards abolishing the death penalty and advancing a more progressive judicial agenda in their respective States.

Participating in the meeting, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein underscored the need to reform judicial systems around the world, noting that only then would a practice based on vengeance truly be defeated.

“No judiciary, anywhere in the world, is so robust that it can guarantee that innocent life will not be taken, and there is an alarming body of evidence to indicate that even well-functioning legal systems have sentenced to death men and women who were subsequently proven innocent,” he said, calling the situation “intolerable.”

 

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