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UN Urges Afghanistan to Screen Police, Army Recruits

A United Nations official is urging the government of Afghanistan to make sure criminals don't become members of Afghanistan's new national army and police.

U.N. special rapporteur on human rights, Asma Jahangir, says that screening members of the new Afghan army and police is crucial for re-establishing the rule of law in Afghanistan. Ms. Jahangir made the remarks while addressing Afghan human rights activists and refugees in the Pakistani capital.

"A screening process should be put in place so that people who are suspected of crimes against humanity should not be included in the national army or the national police," she said. "If that mistake is made then I am afraid that it will simply be empowering the criminals of old times."

Ms. Jahangir says that an independent international commission of inquiry should be set up to take the first step to look into grave human rights violations committed during the last 23 years in Afghanistan.

"I am afraid that when there is talk of security we must also discuss how people must also get justice, how people's lives should be protected in Afghanistan," Asma Jahangir said.

Ms. Jahangir traveled to Afghanistan in October on a 10-day fact finding mission about human rights violations.

The U.N. special rapporteur also criticized Afghanistan's chief justice Fazel Hadi Shinwari for imposing a ban on cable television and banning women from singing songs. She called for the removal of Mr. Shinwari, saying that he is far above the age of the chief justice as prescribed by the constitution.

"He has packed the supreme court with judges. He has ten times more judges than what is in the constitution," she said. "And so if the new judicial commission is going to be based on whatever is available and made available by the present chief justice, you will be building on a judiciary that is extremist in its very nature."

Last month, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai to retire Chief Justice Shinwari. The report says that he does not have formal training in secular law and his formal training, like that of dozens of other judges, is believed to be limited to religious law.

According to the report, Mr. Shinwari has expanded the number of Afghan judges from nine to 137, by placing allies in key positions. The group says such moves are fueling fears that the Afghan judicial system has been taken over by hard-liners.