KABUL (Reuters) – Taliban insurgents urged the international community and right groups to stop Afghan President Hamid Karzai approving the execution of about 100 prisoners whose death sentences were approved by the supreme court.
The Taliban, fighting to overthrow the pro-Western Afghan government, have executed dozens of captured troops and civilians since U.S.-led and Afghan forces ousted the Islamist movement in 2001. The Taliban also executed dozens of criminals, often in public, while they were in power from 1996 till 2001.
Human Rights Watch said on Thursday Karzai should refuse to confirm the death penalties of about 100 convicted prisoners because of concerns they had not received a fair trial.
The Taliban’s leadership council said 80 percent of those sentenced to death were members of the Taliban jailed by the government and should not be executed as they had been “detained on charges of fighting for freedom.”
“We … demand the UN, the European Union, Red Cross and human rights organizations to take quick steps for stopping this barbaric act and stop the killing of innocent prisoners,” said a statement posted at the weekend on the militants’ Web site.
The statement said some of the 14 convicts executed last year by Kabul were also Taliban prisoners.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said the Supreme Court’s recent announcement of about 100 death sentences showed a “disturbing disregard for the right to life.”
Supreme Court officials said those sentenced to death had been convicted of serious crimes, such as murder and rape, kidnapping, hostage taking and armed robbery.
Human Rights Watch said legal experts and human rights organizations in Afghanistan have long expressed concern that international due process and fair trial standards were generally not met in capital cases.
Afghanistan’s judiciary, like much of the government, is criticized for endemic corruption and red tape.
The Afghan government, set up after the ouster of the Taliban, has retained the death sentence but only 15 people have been executed since 2001.
Under the Afghan criminal code, death sentences handed down by criminal courts are reviewed by an appeals court. If the sentence stands, it must be confirmed by the Supreme Court.
Confirmed death sentences must then be endorsed by the president. Karzai has commuted some death sentences.