AI NEWSLETTER December 95 Focus Afghanistan: a country in ruins Sixteen years of civil war have left Afghanistan fragmented and its people

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AI NEWSLETTER December 95 Focus Afghanistan: a country in ruins Sixteen years of civil war have left Afghanistan fragmented and its people traumatized. There is no effective central authority and laws
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AI NEWSLETTER December 95 Focus Afghanistan: a country in ruins Sixteen years of civil war have left Afghanistan fragmented and its people traumatized. There is no effective central authority and laws have become meaningless. Armed guards allied to dozens of political groups and local military commanders have committed widespread and systematic human rights abuses fuelled by unlimited supplies of weapons. A generation of Afghans have had their lives shattered, yet their suffering is largely ignored by the rest of the world. As Afghanistan plunged into civil war following the Soviet invasion in 1979, governments around the world eagerly lined up to offer political, financial and military support to the warring factions. For over a decade vast quantities of weapons poured into Afghanistan. The countries primarily responsible were the former Soviet Union, the United States of America (USA) and its European allies, China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran. All either sold arms directly to Afghanistan or financed and facilitated transfers of weapons through their territory. For Afghan civilians, the consequences have been catastrophic. Up to 400,000 children have been killed during the civil war, according to the United Nations Children s Fund (UNICEF). Villages, homes, livestock and crops have been destroyed by rockets, mortars and bombs. More than five million people a third of the population have fled the country in terror, most ending up in sprawling refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran. Hundreds of thousands of others who remain in Afghanistan have been made homeless. Since April 1992, when Mujahideen groups took control of parts of Kabul and other cities, the human rights crisis has escalated. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and many more wounded in artillery attacks by all factions, some of which appear to have been deliberately aimed at residential areas because the people living there were considered to support a rival group. Thousands of others have been killed at close range by armed guards during raids on their homes. Several thousand people are missing after being abducted by armed groups. Torture is endemic. Women and girls are treated as the spoils of war, being raped by armed guards at will or sold into prostitution. Prisoners have been forced to eat what they were told was human flesh, given electric shocks or had their testicles crushed by pliers. Almost all are beaten, deprived of food for long periods and exposed to extremes of hot and cold. The jails are crammed with people being held solely because of their political opinions or religion or ethnic origin. Some are being held as hostages. Members of Afghan political groups are committing human rights abuses without the slightest fear that they will be disciplined. The countries that have supplied military, financial and political support to the warring Afghan factions have helped create a climate of lawlessness and violence in which human rights are treated with contempt. Yet they have consistently refused to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. The world appears to have forgotten Afghanistan. The future is not, however, without hope. If the world wakes up to the plight of Afghanistan and if the international community takes constructive action, there is every reason to believe that the next generation of Afghans can build a society in which their human rights are respected. KILLINGS On a day no different from any other in 1993, a crowd of people stood waiting for a bus in Kabul. A moment later there was mayhem as bombs rained down around the bus stop. Bodies were strewn everywhere. One man s head was separated from his body. In a matter of seconds more than 80 people had been killed or wounded. In just one month, between 12 September and 12 October 1994, an estimated 800 people were killed and more than 17,000 wounded when various factions pounded residential areas in Kabul with artillery and mortar fire, justifying their attacks on civilians on the grounds that they believed the local 2 population had supported their political rivals. Most of the victims were unarmed women and children. The bombardment of homes has continued almost without pause. In March 1995 President Borhannudin Rabbani s forces launched a heavy assault using jet fighters against the Shi a populated areas of Karte Seh in Kabul. They then rampaged through Karte Seh, looting houses, killing and beating unarmed people, and raping women. Armed guards of the warring factions have killed thousands of civilians deliberately and arbitrarily at close range. Many have died while trying to protect their relatives or property. Women and children have been killed because they resisted abduction or rape. Some of the killings are motivated simply by revenge. Others are rooted in hostility to certain ethnic and religious groups, or hatred of educated individuals or former government officials. There is no one to turn to for protection. In one incident in May 1992 a man suspected of being a member of the former ruling party was arrested in the Ministry of the Interior by the armed guards of Shura-e Nezar, the Supervisory Council. Eye-witnesses said that an armed guard tied him up and kicked him down a flight of stairs. On the ground floor, a Mujahideen fighter allied to the new government reportedly clubbed him with a rifle butt. He then reportedly fired at least 10 bullets into the prisoner. After that he tried to cut the dead man s throat with a blunt ceremonial sword. Anyone who dares to voice opposition to the armed political groups or who works for peace risks assassination. Among the most well-known of such victims was Najmuddin Musleh, an Uzbek national employed as a personal assistant to President Rabbani. On 31 December 1993 he was sent to negotiate with General Dostum immediately before intense fighting broke out on 1 January Despite being an emissary, he was arrested by the allied forces of General Dostum and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He was handed over to the forces of Hezb-e Wahdat, Party of Islamic Unity, in western Kabul who in April 1994 reportedly asked his family for US$5 million for his release. They could not pay it. When President Rabbani s forces captured positions held by Hezb-e Wahdat in western Kabul in March 1995, they found a detention centre in which eight prisoners, including Najmuddin Musleh, had been shot dead. AI has not heard of a single case where an armed guard or commander has been held to account for committing such gross human rights abuses. Until they are, there seems little hope that the killings will end. TORTURE All factions routinely torture and ill-treat captives. Armed guards even torture people in their homes or in the streets, displaying their brutality for all to see. Gul Nabi Khan, a former Afghan army officer, was stopped in early 1994 by guards belonging to Harekat-e Inqilab-e Islami, Movement for Islamic Revolution. They beat him in front of witnesses until he no longer showed any signs of life. One witness told AI: The guards thought he was dead so they dumped him at a corner. He has become totally paralysed. In the detention centres that are maintained by various Afghan armed political groups, torture and ill-treatment are part of the daily routine. Detainees are brutally beaten, deprived of food and water, exposed to extremes of heat and cold, and, in the case of women, raped or otherwise sexually assaulted. They are tortured to punish or humiliate them on account of their ethnic or religious identity, or because they are suspected of working for a rival group. Some are tortured to force their families to pay ransoms. Those facing interrogation are subjected to particularly painful forms of torture. A man arrested in Kabul told AI about his interrogation under torture by people working for the Ministry of State Security: They put one of my testicles between a pair of pliers and crushed it...one day they hit me with a Kalashnikov rifle butt and my skull broke. Electric shocks continued to be given to my hands and feet. I was tortured there for two weeks every other night. RAPE Nafisa, a 25-year-old woman, ran to the top of her building and flung herself off the balcony. Armed men from Shura-e Nezar had come looking for her. She knew what they would do to her and death seemed preferable. She did not die, but her back and legs were broken. Women and girls all over Afghanistan live in constant fear of being raped by armed guards. Every day they hear stories of sexual assaults by members of armed political groups who are allowed to commit such abuses without fear of reprimand from their leaders. In fact, rape is apparently condoned by most leaders as a means of terrorizing conquered populations and of rewarding fighters. Age is no barrier to the cruelty of some armed guards. A 15-year-old girl was forced to watch her father being shot dead and was then repeatedly raped by armed guards in her house in Kabul s Chel Sotoon district in March For the victims of rape and sexual abuse, the pain never goes. She told AI that words could not describe her ordeal. Fear of rape has led many families to flee Afghanistan. ABDUCTION The door of Assadullah Wakilzadeh s Kabul home burst open. A group of armed men, reportedly belonging to Jamiat-e Islami, Society of Islam, stormed in. Assadullah Wakilzadeh tried to resist but was beaten unconscious. When he came round, his 15-year-old son, Rahmatullah, had been abducted. Two days later, on 22 November 1993, two other sons, Ahmadreza, aged 13, and Mustafa, aged 11, were also abducted in a similar raid. The three boys have never been seen again. The special terror of abductions followed by silence has haunted the people of Afghanistan for over a decade. Friends, relatives or witnesses usually know who took the person away, but those responsible deny they are holding them. The only time relatives officially find out what has become of them is if a ransom is demanded. Some families have been waiting for years for news of their loved ones. The total number of people who have gone missing after being detained by Mujahideen groups runs into the thousands. The vast majority of those held in unacknowledged detention are people suspected of supporting a rival faction or associated with previous governments. Some were apparently targeted because of their efforts to end the fighting. Some people have been detained in unknown locations because their expertise is needed by a local military commander; among them are medical doctors and people with specialist military training. Others have been taken prisoner and forced to dig trenches, clear mines, carry weapons, or work as servants. Young women and children have been detained in order to be available for repeated rape or to be sold into prostitution. Their relatives have been unable to trace them. The world s governments have betrayed Afghanistan. They have played out their rivalries on Afghan soil. They have supplied weapons to armed political groups in the full knowledge that they are being used to abuse human rights. And now they are doing almost nothing to end the cycle of abuses. Even now, despite ample evidence that human rights abuses are being committed every day, governments are still offering political and military support to their favoured Afghan groups. Afghan armed groups, including those represented in the transitional government, have claimed that they wish to restore religious and humane standards. In practice, they have killed, tortured, raped, abducted and secretly detained tens of thousands of civilians using weapons obtained from abroad. These abuses have been committed with total freedom by all armed political groups who have terrorized the population in order to secure their power bases. It is time for governments to put pressure on their allies in Afghanistan to respect basic human rights and humanitarian law. They should send them a new message: if you commit abuses, you will be without friends. 3 4 The countries that have been involved in the Afghan war should stop putting their own interests above the human rights of Afghans. In particular, the USA and the successor states of the Soviet Union should acknowledge their responsibility for the human rights disaster and take appropriate action. They could also ensure that the UN takes the Afghan crisis more seriously. They could provide the UN with the tools and money it needs to make its intervention more effective. At the moment the various UN agencies involved in aiding the Afghan population appears to lack adequate funding and coordination. UN efforts at mediating towards a peace settlement have been thwarted by a lack of political will to compromise by the warring factions and the states supporting them. Regional powers must also take responsibility for ending the carnage. The Organization of the Islamic Conference has initiated discussions on Afghanistan, but these have faltered at every turn. Many of its members appear more concerned about winning influence in the country than in seeking a speedy and just solution to the problems facing ordinary Afghans. Afghanistan is not a lost cause. There is hope because the seeds for a better future exist. They are there in the human rights defenders who under daily threat risk their lives to speak out, and in those who are working towards to a peaceful and just solution to the conflict. For those voices to be heard, they need the support of the international community. They need the backing of those who share responsibility for the current human rights disaster. It is not that the voices of Afghans are silent. It is just that the world has stopped listening. International responsibility for the legacy of war: Since 1979 the governments of the Soviet Union and its successor states, the USA, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere have sought to increase their influence in the region regardless of the consequences for Afghan civilians. They have extended political, financial and military support to all sides in the civil war in the full knowledge that their allies were committing gross and widespread human rights abuses. The arms glut is supplemented on a daily basis from the arms markets in Pakistan s North West Frontier Province. On offer are arms from China, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Weapons have also been sent through Pakistan from countries in Europe and the Middle East. India, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tadzhikistan and Uzbekistan are all reported to be supplying the warring factions in Afghanistan with arms and ammunition to this day. AI takes no position as such on the civil war or on the possession or trade of weapons. It does, however, oppose the transfer of military, security or police equipment from one country to another or the provision of personnel, training or logistical support whenever there is reason to believe that such transfers directly result in human rights abuses. To all parties to the conflict: l Respect human rights and humanitarian law l Reveal the truth about human rights abuses l Exercise control to prevent abuses l End deliberate and arbitrary killings l Prevent torture and ill-treatment of detainees l Prevent hostage-taking, the holding of prisoners of conscience and unacknowledged detention l Clarify the fate of unacknowledged detainees l Allow unimpeded access to international organizations To the international community: l Express concern to the governments of those countries which have supplied arms to Afghanistan over the past decade without taking any measures to ensure they were not used to commit human rights abuses. l Ensure that these arms are not used to commit or facilitate human rights abuses.l Initiate education and training programs in Afghanistan to promote awareness of human rights. To intergovernmental bodies: l The UN must ensure that the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan and the UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan are provided with the means to work effectively together to address the human rights violations and abuses in the country. l The UN should take appropriate steps, including preventative measures, to address reported violations and abuses. l Intergovernmental organizations such as the Organization of Islamic Conference should condemn the human rights situation in Afghanistan and become actively involved in trying to end the abuses. 5 DECEMBER 95 NEWS Kenya On 22 September 1995 Wang ondu Kariuki, a lawyer and former prisoner of conscience, was arrested and held incommunicado for seven days. He was reportedly stripped naked, beaten and, for the first three days, denied food. When his case came to court the magistrate refused to investigate the allegation of torture. His experience follows a pattern common to many criminal suspects and political detainees in Kenya, where torture and ill-treatment by the security forces are widespread. Prison conditions are harsh. Over 800 prisoners have died in Kenyan prisons since the beginning of the year. Prisoners appear to be routinely tortured to obtain confessions. Many suffer serious injuries as a result but are often refused medical treatment or receive it late. Doctors who attempt to treat torture victims are harassed by police and prison officers. Investigations into allegations of torture by the police are rare prosecutions rarer still and many police officers appear to act with impunity. Torture, which usually happens shortly after arrest, usually consists of brutal beatings with sticks, fists, handles of hoes or gun butts. Detainees are often tortured by being suspended upside down on a stick passed behind their knees and in front of their elbows and then beaten on the soles of their feet. Some prisoners are held for several days in cells filled with two inches of water. Some have their finger-nails and toe-nails pulled out, or are taken to a forest at night, suspended from trees and then beaten. Both men and women have been subjected to severe forms of sexual abuse. Men have been tortured by having their genitals pricked with large pins or tied with string and pulled. Women have had objects inserted into their vaginas. In January 1995 a woman police inspector had reportedly pushed a bottle containing pepper into Alice Mariga Ashioya s vagina. The evidence that her confession had been extracted under torture led to her acquittal. AI is not aware of any investigation into her alleged torture. In December 1994, four young men were permanently disabled by Special Branch officers who tied them to trees in Dundori Forest, near Nakuru, and beat them. Despite their injuries, they were not taken to hospital for six days. Two days later, one of the four had his arm amputated after it developed gangrene. AI medical delegates who examined three of these men found that they all suffered permanent damage to their bodies, mainly their arms...which could not have been self-inflicted. In an apparent effort to avoid evidence of police brutality in open court, these four men were never charged. They were released after being held in hospital under police guard for seven months. The four were part of a group of 67 men who were accused of holding an illegal meeting. At least 17 of them were reportedly tortured. The case of the other 63, who remain in custody, is ongoing. 6 AI is extremely concerned that despite the evidence, the Kenyan authorities have refused to acknowledge that a pattern of torture exists. It is urging the government to take effective steps to prevent torture and ill-treatment in custody. Democratic People s Republic of Korea (North Korea) The Government of the Democratic People s Republic of Korea (North Korea) is claiming that most prisoners of conscience and political prisoners in the country have never been detained, or that they have died. AI is urging the North Korean Government to clarify the fate of around 50 prisoners. Kim Duk Hwan is among the prisoners of conscience whose fate rem
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