Renewed takeover by the Taliban – we demand an end to the death penalty in Afghanistan

Statement of the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

The death penalty has a long history in Afghanistan, it is not possible to trace back exactly how long the death penalty has been applied there. For example, adultery or homosexuality is punished with the death penalty in Afghanistan. Death is inflicted primarily by hanging or shooting, and sometimes by stoning. Since the Taliban first seized power in 1996, there have probably been countless executions.

In 2016 alone, about 100 people were sentenced to death for murder, rape, as well as other crimes. Human rights defenders were also repeatedly threatened. For example, the organization Amnesty International reported that journalists were subjected to death threats, violence, and censorship. The government continued to have death sentences carried out, often after unfair trials.[1]

As of August 2021, Afghanistan is once again in Taliban hands. This happened incredibly quickly after the foreign military withdrew. We fear that the number of executions will now increase massively again. There were little to no trials that would meet the criteria of international law even before 2001, the year the Taliban was overthrown for the time being.

Our fears do not appear to be unfounded. As early as the end of August 2021, there were the first media reports of Taliban-initiated executions. For example, CNN reported that the Taliban sentenced the brother of an Afghan translator to death. He is accused of helping the U.S. and providing security for his brother, who worked as an interpreter for American troops. Within three months, the man received three letters. The first letter asked him to appear for a court hearing, the second letter told him that he had failed to appear, and the third letter, according to the CNN report, told the man that he was “guilty in absentia” and would be sentenced to death for allegedly ignoring earlier warnings and a summons to appear at a hearing.[2]

Also in late August of this year, Tagesschau reported that serious human rights violations had already been reported by the UN from the crisis state. There had been mass executions of civilians and former members of the Afghan security forces.[3]

We, the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, fear that the number of executions in Afghanistan will increase massively. We demand for (real![4]) crimes on the one hand fair trials, which are carried out under consideration of international human rights. Furthermore, we not only condemn any form of violence; in the strongest terms we also explicitly condemn the execution of people, as both violate current human rights.

After taking power in August 2021, the Taliban repeatedly stated in the media that they would “respect human rights and international law”. (2021 press conference, statement by Taliban spokesman Mujahid.) [5] Recently, Sabihullah Mujahid also said, “We don’t want our people to be afraid, Afghanistan is our common home, you can stay here, you don’t have to flee.” [6]

If this were true, respecting human and international rights would be a new beginning and a small perspective for a country that has suffered massively in recent decades. And even if we sincerely wish peace and tranquility to the people in Afghanistan – we remain skeptical and concerned, at least for the time being, because so far there are only words and no positive actions.

Claudia Rau
German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

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[4] By “real” crimes we mean what would also constitute a crime under German law. An adultery, a different faith or the living out of a homosexual orientation do not represent a crime for us at all, these actions are therefore not to be condemned.

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