By Nazila Jamshidi
Recently, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported on the Taliban’s 334 cases of public executions, lashings, and stonings at least in the past six months, which is an indication of practicing and normalizing judicial corporal punishment in the country.
By replacing the national judicial system with corporal punishment, Afghanistan’s laws have begun to be administered for political ends without offering protections for the rights of individuals to a fair trial. In the country that has signed up to most international agreements and conventions on human rights, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Convention against Torture, flogging and other forms of public execution have triggered been prevalent as far as women, men, and underage children are being publicly executed.
Even under the Islamic Republic, human rights abuses have always been widespread in Afghanistan, serving the political will of the ruling government, and military commanders and many government officials have enjoyed a high degree of impunity. However, with the Taliban regaining control of the country, public corporal punishment is becoming a pervasive judicial system for the people of Afghanistan. Factors such as the current radical interpretation of Islamic law, the loss of trained judges and lawyers, complete collapse of the country’s laws supported by the constitution and functioning judicial system contribute to the speedy normalization of public corporal punishment.
As UNAMA reports, the offenses like adultery, running away from home– mainly due to domestic violence–consuming alcohol, theft, and fraud receive up to 100 lashes as punishment in public. A country staggered by decades of conflict is now exposed to lifelong hurtful mental and psychological impacts of practicing public executions. Unduly emphasizing the role of divine law concerning the individual, the Taliban have justified rolling back the rights of Afghans to access a fair and protective judicial system that was formally recognized under the previous regime. These executions explicitly represent the Taliban’s strategy for the rule of law. Needless to say that the Taliban execution policy is evidence of stark disparities between the penalties imposed and the Islamic justice they claim to represent. Moreover, unlike other countries that retain execution law and practice, the Taliban do not rely on any procedural guarantees in the trial, such as the meaningful opportunity to confer with the counsel of a defense. This should garner international attention for emerging another era of frequent executions without adequate evidence in Afghanistan.
The United Nations has made a long path from proclamation to regulations that prohibit and abolish public execution, particularly the death penalty, throughout its establishment. In 1984, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed people’s rights to life. Similarly, the United Nations Convention on Civil and Political Rights established that no human being should be arbitrarily deprived of life. The UN also strongly opposes the practice of corporal punishment like flogging and lashing through its Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Urgent Call for Action: Upholding human dignity and abolishing public executions in Afghanistan
The UN called on the Taliban to halt all corporal punishments and public executions, which apparently they refused to pay any attention to and justified the refusal by Islamic rules and guidelines. Public flogging and other forms of capital executions deny human dignity and integrity and should not be tolerated by the UN and any member states. The UN also should continue to work for the universal abolition of public executions while putting human rights issues at the core of its relations and formal meetings with the Taliban. So far, the UN has reacted to the Taliban’s atrocities by focusing on the plight of the Afghans who suffer from a dire humanitarian crisis rather than pressuring the Taliban to meet their obligations to respect the human rights of the citizens. The UN should stand firm on its principle prohibiting such cruel sentences, especially in the absence of fair trial guarantees. Finally, the UN should continue investment in fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address human rights situations in all parts of the country.
Nazila Jamshidi – a gender equality and human rights specialist involved in Afghanistan’s development and democracy processes for the past decade – has worked for the UN, USAID, the International Federation of Red Cross.
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