Extrajudicial killings: What’s behind a UN report?

Written by CNN Staff Writer

What’s truly terrible is that the results of these extrajudicial killings may not be reversible, in most cases. I don’t use the word “extrajudicial” lightly. These are procedures and processes that are not the same as trials that have a verdict, and not the same as traditional legal procedures.

However, that isn’t to say these crimes aren’t being investigated or convicted, they’re just that there isn’t any legal due process. It’s like the system that imprisoned Stalin for decades or that brought in a former King of England — something that you might expect would have been enabled by a rule of law system.

What we’re calling for is that courts across Afghanistan implement — as quickly as possible — guidelines from the latest UN working group on extrajudicial killings, which the government of Afghanistan signed — in order to ensure that crimes are brought to trial and prosecuted.

What the UN working group called for are guidelines for judicial investigations and prosecution — and that the guidelines are reflected in operational law so that the institution that carries out these investigations and prosecutions have the legal framework within which to do their work.

For instance, the UN said there needed to be an international, not regional, criminal court established. If you establish a criminal court — it’s not being prevented by the Taliban because they don’t have the power to do so. The institutions must be in place within Afghanistan.

There’s a need for Afghan judges to be trained in international standards of prosecutorial procedure, in terms of the legal standards, in terms of the rules, in terms of the protocols that need to be followed in order to try suspects.

A consistent message needs to be sent by the international community — by those who are representing the international community in Afghanistan — that the rule of law has to be respected in this country, and that impunity is not an option, and there has to be justice. We want to see these extrajudicial killings stopped.

Rights groups have long accused the Afghan government of doing nothing about extrajudicial killings carried out by soldiers and police. Their campaign has gained some traction after Kabul’s new President Ashraf Ghani said last month that he was calling a meeting with chiefs of police to end abuses of authority. What are your thoughts on the spate of such killings?

This is a report that the US government paid $5.8 million to write and produce, and the US government should take its money and use it for the purpose it was intended for — namely to improve standards of justice and to ensure accountability for abuses and extrajudicial killings.

We have delivered this report on the basis of a legal review of the former Afghan National Security Agency and the former Directorate of National Intelligence, both of which are responsible for investigations into allegations of extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detention. And the key recommendations to these institutions and to the Afghan judicial institutions concerned with investigating such killings and so on, are: first, they need to provide a modicum of protection for the commissions involved, to give these bodies a chance to do their work without fear of intimidation, interference or repression.

It should be condemned by all the governments involved in Afghanistan, that there have been acts of violence against individuals involved in the investigation. That will not be helpful to the process of enhancing evidence, which will not be helpful if there is an attempt to undermine the international legal principles that are being applied.

One area that the working group called for is the dissemination of information by these institutions regarding their achievements in investigations and prosecutions of crimes. That is something that we’ve already been working on for years in Afghanistan. And that information should be gathered and circulated publicly, if it’s possible, by the Afghan judicial institutions concerned with these crimes and such killings.

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