| ||UN rights chief wants Karzai to halt executions|
By Javed Hamim Kakar
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KABUL - The United Nations has voiced grave concern over what it called the sudden execution of 14 prisoners in Afghanistan’s capital over the past few days, calling the return to capital punishment after a year and half a disturbing development.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said on Thursday: “Under international law and Afghanistan's own treaty obligations, the death penalty must be reserved for the most serious crimes and only applied after the most rigorous judicial process.”
President Hamid Karzai approved the executions following a review of 250 cases of death-row prisoners by a presidential committee. The 14 prisoners executed at Pul-i-Charkhi prison in Kabul on Nov. 20 and 21 had been convicted of serious crimes, including murder, rape and national security crimes.
Pillay said Afghanistan's justice system relied primarily on confessions, including some obtained through the use of torture, which raised serious concerns about the trials of those who were sentenced to death. In addition, the UN has repeatedly flagged the country's failure to meet international fair trial standards and due process guarantees under Afghan law.
In a statement, she said: “Afghans have already suffered the brutalising effects of decades of war and the right to life -- the most fundamental of all human rights -- is in desperate need of reinforcement in a country plagued by killing and violence.”
In Afghanistan, the return to executions comes in sharp contrast to the worldwide trend toward ending the use of capital punishment. A record 110 countries voted in favour of the latest General Assembly resolution calling for the abolition of the death penalty on Tuesday.
The UN HR commissioner said: “More and more countries are recognising that the death penalty does harm to society. I urge President Karzai to show that the rule of law can also be built on clemency and humanity, and that Afghanistan too will join the worldwide trend against the death penalty.”