Afghan warlord living in Surrey, BBC | RAWA statement about Zardad | RAWA reports about Zardad

August 1, 2000
AI Index EUR 45/054/2000 - News Service Nr. 147

UK: Afghan warlord should
be investigated

Amnesty International urges the UK Government to investigate a recent BBC Newsnight report that Zardad, a former Afghan commander who is currently living in London, was responsible for grave human rights abuses between 1992 and 1996 in Afghanistan.

Photo of Zardad's check post in Sarobi district of Kabul

Afghan warlord living in Surrey
"Anyone with a gun could mob and murder at will"

The BBC's John Simpson
BBC, 27 July, 2000

Zardad in BBC Simpson's World

A former Afghan warlord suspected of murder, rape, torture and theft is living under an assumed name in a London suburb, the BBC has learned.

The man, known as Commander Zardad, operated roadblocks at a town called Sarobi, on one of the major routes into the capital Kabul, during the early 1990s.

He is accused of using his position to stop every vehicle that passed at gunpoint and carrying out extortion, robbery and murder.

The BBC's Newsnight programme tracked Commander Zardad down to Mitcham, south west of London, but he denied the charges laid against him.

The house in Mitcham, Surrey, where Commander Zardad lives "We never harassed anyone, and we never killed anyone," he said.

"I was not the commander at Sarobi. I was a commander at Kabul. I was just an advisor at Sarobi."

When the Taleban took over, Commander Zardad had enough money to escape to Britain.

"I come here to England because we have lots of trouble because the Taleban are trying to kill me and make trouble," Commander Zardad said. "I am not doing anything in England, I am just living my life."

Human dog

Commander Zardad was typical of the anarchic rule that ravaged Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989.

But former Agence France Presse reporter Stefan Smith told the BBC Commander Zardad stood apart because of his power.

"What really brought him apart from others is the amount of terror he reaped," he said.

He recalled one instance when he said he saw Commander Zardad's men kill 10 unarmed men on board a bus.

Underground cave where "human dog" was kept

Commander Zardad is also said to have kept a "human dog" - a half-savage man who was kept in an underground cave.

He was used to attack people who were unwillingly to cooperate with Commander Zardad - biting them and even killing them - according to eyewitness reports.

The BBC were tipped-off about Commander Zardad's whereabouts by Afghanistan's hardline ruling Taleban militia, who ousted him from his Sarobi base in 1996.

Ann Clwyd MP who chairs the parliamentary human rights group, said if the evidence the BBC had was correct, it was very worrying.

She said it was worrying that there was no procedure for checking the identity of suspected war criminals. "I think there is cause for concern," she said.

She said if the political will was there it should be possible to bring suspected torturers to justice.

"There is a lot more public interest in seeing the people accused of war crimes are brought to justice," she said.

The BBC has passed on all its information to the police.

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