Amnesty International accused Afghanistan last week of “treating rape in a flawed way” in its trial and execution of a gang of five men in a case that stoked national outrage.
In late August, a group of men stopped a family convoy of four cars at night on Qargha-Paghman road, returning from a wedding in Paghman district. They beat the men and kidnapped four women, whom they repeatedly raped.
Both male and female protesters in Kabul cried out for the death penalty, hoping that handing down the ultimate sentence would discourage other criminals from committing such heinous acts. Last Wednesday, five men were hanged. Two other assailants received 20 years in prison, and three suspects are at large; Kabul police said one fled the country.
The women took the stand to testify against their attackers in a televised trial that gripped the nation.
President Hamid Karzai signed the death warrants of the convicted men before leaving office, and new President Ashraf Ghani let the death warrant stand.
Human-rights groups and the United Nations jumped on Afghanistan.
David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director, said in a statement that there’s “no question that this was an appalling crime and the outcry and anger this case has caused is of course understandable.”
“But the death penalty is not justice – it only amounts to short-term revenge,” Griffiths said. “The death penalty is an abhorrent form of punishment and should never be used under any circumstances. The many fair trial concerns in this case only make these executions more unjust. It’s deeply disappointing that new President Ashraf Ghani has allowed the executions to go ahead.”
The men were charged under zina — the Islamic law against unlawful sexual intercourse, often applied to adultery. They were also convicted of robbery.
“President Ghani was placed in an unenviable position by the actions of his predecessor in this case, but regrettably failed his first test on upholding human rights and the rule of law,” Griffiths said. “These deaths cannot be undone now, but President Ghani must order an immediate moratorium on all executions as a first step towards total abolition or the death penalty.”
At the UN, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein wrote to Ghani to ask him to cancel the executions. The UN press release said Ghani was asked “to commute the death sentences to a suitable term of imprisonment” for the “five Afghans accused of armed robbery and gang rape.”
Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine said the “horrendous due process violations in the Paghman trial have only worsened the injustices of this terrible crime.”
Kine called the executions “a grave miscarriage of justice.”
This week, Afghanistan is back to the business of building a state, with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah calling his first meeting of economic ministers today.
“The issue of the economy is important to the people of the nation — after security,” Abdullah said, according to Tolo News.