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UN rights chief decries Afghan executions

After the execution of 14 death row prisoners in Afghanistan this week, United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to abolish capital punishment

AFP , Thursday 22 Nov 2012
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United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay harshly condemned Thursday the execution of 14 prisoners at a prison near Kabul this week, and called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to abolish capital punishment.

"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," Pillay said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Afghanistan executed eight prisoners on death row for crimes including murder, kidnapping and rape, and a day later, six terror convicts were hanged.

The public hangings marked a rare use of the death penalty in the war-wracked country, where executions have been infrequent since the fall of the Taliban Islamist regime in 2001, which put people to death for adultery and other infringements of Islamic law.

Pillay lamented that Karzai himself approved the executions this week, stressing that use of the death penalty was especially worrying in a country with such a weak legal system.

"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," she said, pointing out that "in the past, shortcomings in the Afghan judicial procedure have raised serious questions about such cases."

The resumption of executions in Afghanistan also stood in stark contrast to the general trend of more and more countries moving to abolish the death penalty or place a moratorium on executions, Pillay said.

"More and more countries are recognising that the death penalty does harm to society," she said.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also voiced "disappointment" at India's execution of Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab for his role in the attack on Mumbai in 2008 -- the country's first execution since 2004.

"There can be no question of the gravity of the crimes committed in Mumbai, but in equally serious crimes, international tribunals have imposed sentences of life imprisonment," Pillay said.

She added that she hoped "India too will move towards total abolition" of the death penalty.

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