Afghanistan: Warlords Return
HRW, June 6, 2002
(Mazar-i Sharif, Afghanistan, June 6, 2002) – Warlords in southern Afghanistan are subverting the loya jirga process to claim both legitimacy and power, Human Rights Watch said in a new briefing paper released today. In several provinces, the warlords are associated with the Taliban and the extremist Islamist movement led by former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Human Rights Watch, which has monitored conditions in Afghanistan throughout the military conflict, said the warlords are stepping into a power vacuum created when the U.S.-led military coalition failed to support the extension of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) outside of Kabul. The mounting repression and lawlessness facing Afghan civilians are dashing hopes that the June 10-16 meeting of the loya jirga will have credibility in selecting the next government.
"Warlords are making a power grab by brazenly manipulating the loya jirga selection process. If they succeed, Afghans will again be denied the ability to choose their own leaders and build civil society," said Sam Zia-Zarifi, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch. "This is a make-or-break time for Afghanistan's future."
The Briefing Paper, Afghanistan: Return of the Warlords, reports on a Human Rights Watch mission to southern Afghanistan in late May. HRW researchers gathered information about the loya jirga process and general security conditions in five southern provinces: Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz, Oruzgan, and Zabul. In every province, HRW recorded instances of violence, intimidation, and general insecurity undermining the fairness of the first stage of the loya jirga selection process. In several cases, Human Rights Watch documented independent candidates being detained or beaten by local commanders intent on sending their own delegates to the loya jirga. More often, warlords simply drew up their own lists of delegates and insisted that the local populace approve them.
10,000 killed in 8 months in Kabul
November 28, 1993: Felix Ermacora in his report to the UN General Assembly's third committee and also during an interview with journalists, said during the past eight months more than 10,000 people had been killed in Kabul.
In his report Ermacora noted that in Kabul some 36,000 houses had been partly or fully destroyed and more than 30,000 damaged. Approximately 110,000 families had been displaced and thousands of persons killed or wounded during the battles in and around the city, he said.
"Numerous cases of rape and ill-treatment by armed persons have been reported.", he said. "A reliable source said that women have never been treated in Afghanistan with such a lack of respect as in recent months".
The threat to the right to life "has been characterised by massacres of all Afghans, regardless of their ethnic background,", he said.
The Frontier Post, November 28, 1993
In Zabul province, where warlords in the ascendancy are associated with the Taliban and the extremist movement led by former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmaytar, provincial authorities seem to operate mostly outside the authority of the Afghan Interim Administration and to be openly hostile to the Bonn Agreement’s blueprint for a post-Taliban Afghanistan.
The United Nations and the Special Independent Commission for the Emergency Loya Jirga are responsible for overseeing the voting process. They were generally successful in limiting violence during the actual voting for the loya jirga. But Human Rights Watch found that these institutions often did not have the resources adequately to monitor and enforce the selection criteria for the loya jirga, which were supposed to exclude delegates who had engaged in human rights abuses, criminal activity, or the drug trade.
"Without proper international security support, the monitors could not be expected to prevent the warlords from subverting the process," Zia-Zarifi said. "The U.N. and the Special Commission now have one week to exclude delegates with abusive pasts and to select other delegates who are committed to the rule of law in Afghanistan."
Human Rights Watch called for the following urgent steps to be taken:
· The United States should immediately halt its apparent policy of relying on local warlords to provide security and troops to its war effort without apparent regard for their human rights record.
· The United Nations Security Council should extend international security forces throughout Afghanistan both during and after the loya jirga.
· The Special Commission for the Loya Jirga should challenge all delegates who do not meet the eligibility requirements set out in the Special Procedures for the loya jirga, particularly those concerning a history of abuse or criminality.
· The Special Commission for the Loya Jirga should use its appointment power to ensure that the loya jirga is not dominated by delegates representing warlords hostile to the Bonn Agreement.
· The new Afghan government should implement mechanisms envisioned in the Bonn Agremeent, such as the Human Rights Commission and the Civil Service Commission, to begin building a system of accountability for those involved in serious violation of human rights.
The Human Rights Watch briefing paper on the return of Afghan warlords is available online at http://hrw.org/backgrounder/asia/afghanistan/warlords.pdf.
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