The United Nations human rights arm has expressed regret over the execution of six people in Afghanistan on Sunday, amid serious concerns about compliance with fair trial standards, and reports about the widespread use of torture and ill-treatment as a means of extracting confessions.
“We fear that there could be more executions in the near future,” said Spokesperson Rupert Colville of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
International law requires that the death penalty may only be carried out in line with a final judgement rendered by a competent court after a legal process with all possible safeguards to ensure a fair trial, including legal representation and the right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction, he said.
The Government of Afghanistan has publicly stated that, based on its review, all fair trial rights were respected in these cases. But, the criteria and methodology used in this review have not been made public and the review lacked transparency, he noted.
“Given this lack of transparency and substantial concerns about compliance with fair trial rights in other cases, serious doubts about Afghanistan’s compliance with international law remain,” he said.
While OHCHR recognizes the increasing security challenges faced by the authorities and growing public pressure to reduce the violence, there is no evidence to confirm that the death penalty is a stronger deterrent than other forms of punishment.
The Office urged the President to refrain from approving death sentences and immediately introduce an official moratorium on the use of death penalty. The Afghan authorities were also urged to expedite legal reform, including of the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, to allow for death sentences to be commuted to life imprisonment.
Meanwhile, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has also expressed regret over the execution of the six people. The UN notes that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty, and that the use of capital punishment does not contribute to public safety.
UNAMA encourages the Government of Afghanistan to expedite legal reform, which would allow death sentences to be commuted to life imprisonment.
Source: United Nations
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