Rights groups dismayed by Afghanistan's return to executions

Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:24am EST
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By Mirwais Harooni

KABUL (Reuters) - Human rights groups reacted with dismay on Wednesday to Afghanistan's resumption of executions after a virtual four-year moratorium on a penalty that characterized the austere rule of the former Taliban regime.

Eight men found guilty of "crimes against the people, especially women and children" were hanged on Tuesday and eight more were to meet the same fate either on Wednesday or Thursday, according to a government official, alarming activists who said the return of executions in a country with a weak judiciary was a blight on gains that had been made.

"The death penalty is an act of cruelty that should never be used," said Brad Adams, Asia director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

"Its use in Afghanistan, where a fair trial is typically out of the question, is even more horrific."

Those executed included a man who strangled to death a mother and her two infant children and men found guilty of kidnapping, raping and murdering young boys and girls.

Officials said that in accordance with the law, President Hamid Karzai himself signed off on the executions. There have been only two executions in Afghanistan in the past four years.

"The eight hangings in a single day are a terrible step backwards for Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai should stop future executions and commit to a formal moratorium," Adams said.

Rafi Ferdous, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Council of Ministers Secretariat, defended the hangings.   Continued...