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Extrajudicial Killings Remain a Problem in Afghanistan - 2002-10-23

A special United Nations envoy says there has been an improvement in the human rights in Afghanistan, but that an atmosphere of fear and intimidation continues to prevail.

U.N. special envoy Asma Jehangir says there has been a marked drop in extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan, but that such incidents continue to be reported. "My information is and my impression is that incidents of extrajudicial and summary execution have dramatically decreased," said Ms. Jehangir. "However, an atmosphere of fear prevails, especially in areas outside Kabul."

Ms. Jehangir's title is that of Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. Her 10 day mission here is to prepare a report on the situation in Afghanistan to be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in March.

Ms. Jehangir says she received reports of extrajudicial killings, dating back 23 years and continuing to the present day.

"Let me say that what I have is the tip of the iceberg," she said. "I don't have an exhaustive list of what has happened. But it is enough to show that it continues. It is enough to show that it has not ended. It is enough to show that impunity is there. And that is why it is encouraging people who have more power of the gun to continue to kill people."

Afghanistan has been ruled by various governments over the past 23 years the communists, the mujahedin rebels, the Taliban, and the present interim government. But tribal and ethnic militias, which are under the control of regional warlords, have held and continue to hold power outside the capital and the country is awash in guns.

In the north, for example, which is in the grip of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, Ms. Jehangir says the rule of the gun continues to prevail.

"What I saw in the north was certainly an improvement of the past. But I think there is intimidation, there is fear, and, I am afraid to say, the rule of the gun prevails there, rather than the rule of law," she said.

Ms. Jehangir says women are particularly vulnerable. She says there are reports of women being killed by family members, in the name of morality. She says authorities take no action.

Ms. Jehangir is recommending that an impartial and comprehensive commission be set up to investigate and document extrajudicial killings, over the past 23 years.

"The findings of this commission of inquiry will be a stepping stone towards setting up a mechanism of accountability so that perpetrators are brought to justice," she predicted.

Ms. Jehangir is also calling for a moratorium on government-sanctioned execution of criminals, until a court system is in place that meets international standards of justice.