The Age (Australia), February 1, 2003

Afghan warlords killing at will

By Ahmed Rashid - Lahore

The United Nations has condemned all the nations and agencies involved in Afghanistan for failing to curb warlords and clamp down on arbitrary executions.

The report calls for an international commission of inquiry backed by the international community.

Another report, by the International Crisis Group, strongly criticises Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the UN, America and Western coalition forces for not taking steps to improve human rights.

Western and Afghan leaders have said that, to preserve the fragile stability in the country, the pursuit of justice was not an option at present. In reply, both reports say that unless human rights issues are dealt with, national reconciliation will never take place, the warlords will remain in power and movement towards democracy will be impaired.

Asma Jahangir, who reports for the UN on unlawful killings, has called for an independent and international commission that would "undertake . . . a stocktaking of grave human rights violations in the past that could constitute a catalogue of crimes against humanity". Her as yet unpublished report will be presented next month at the UN annual meeting on human rights in Geneva.It calls for much greater international assistance in rebuilding the Afghan judicial system, strengthening the country's human rights commission and making respect for human rights a key part of Western policy.

The report details widespread killings by the Taliban and the former Northern Alliance. Ms Jahangir detailed how civilians continued to be killed, jailed, tortured and intimidated by warlords.

The International Crisis Group, which issued its report this week, demanded President Karzai remove Supreme Court Chief Justice Fazl Hadi Shinwari. He has banned cable television and has given judgments against the full participation of women in social and political life. The report said the cleric, 80, was unversed in secular law and "has expanded the number of Supreme Court judges from nine to 137, many of whom are also unqualified in secular law". Afghanistan has an Islamic and secular legal system.

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