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(New York) - President Hamid Karzai should not appoint known human rights abusers and warlords as provincial police chiefs, Human Rights Watch said today.

In the coming days, President Karzai will appoint candidates for Afghanistan’s 34 provincial police posts. Karzai has now begun to review candidates for these positions, which are the country’s top police positions.

At least four of the current candidates for provincial police chief were barred from standing as candidates in last year’s parliamentary elections for having links to illegal militias. Other potential appointees are known human rights abusers, warlords and drug-traffickers. Several of the candidates have been implicated in murder, torture, intimidation, bribery, government corruption and interfering with police investigations.

“If Karzai decides to appoint known human rights abusers to the country’s top police posts, he would be endangering the human rights of Afghans, not protecting them,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These candidates should be investigated for their human rights abuses and other crimes, not appointed as police chiefs.”

In recent months Karzai has appointed temporary police chiefs like Mustapha Khan in Logar province, a one-time candidate in the parliamentary elections who was banned from running for election because of his relationships to illegal militias. Karzai is now considering the permanent appointment of Khan despite his known unlawful activities.

Human Rights Watch expressed serious concern about the possible permanent appointment of Kabul’s police chief, Jamil Jumbish, who has been implicated in murder, torture, intimidation, bribery and interfering with investigations into misconduct by officers directly under his control. He is currently under investigation by the Afghan government for involvement in the torture and death of two men in his custody. Jumbish has allegedly used his position of power to sell police posts and is accused of possession of illegal weapons, which he has refused to turn over to the appropriate authorities.

“First and foremost, Karzai should be judging candidates on their human rights records,” said Adams. “Jumbish’s reappointment as Kabul police chief would be a serious blow to police reform in Afghanistan.”

The appointment of known human rights abusers to the country’s most important and powerful police positions would undermine the benchmarks laid out in January in the Afghanistan Compact for stamping out corruption and bolstering good governance and upholding international human rights standards. At present, the United Nations and the Afghan government are working towards the creation of a panel, required by the Afghanistan Compact, to oversee presidential appointments of positions such as provincial police chief and governor.

“The appointment of known warlords and human rights violators would perpetuate impunity and weaken the already fragile public security institutions,” said Adams. “An independent commission to vet presidential appointments is needed to promote transparency and accountability in Afghanistan.”

A significant number of the 34 candidates have failed to meet the human rights standards for senior police appointments set by the U.S.-led Police Reform Directorate, the German Police Reform Commission, and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The United States, Germany and UNAMA have opposed the appointment of Jumbish and others with notorious human rights records. Human Rights Watch commended Afghanistan’s international supporters for working to sideline known abusers. Human Rights Watch called on them to remain firm and to oppose any deal that would allow known human rights abusers to receive any appointment in the Ministry of Interior or other public security institutions, or as a provincial governor.

Afghans have consistently identified weak government institutions, corrupt officials and a persistent culture of impunity among their main security concerns, Human Rights Watch noted.

“The president’s consideration of blatant human rights abusers calls into question his stated commitments to the human rights and security of the Afghan people,” said Adams. “If these men are appointed, Karzai would be sacrificing the country’s long-term interests in order to cement alliances with some of the country’s worst human rights abusers.”

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