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Will Afghanistan Prosecute Kandahar’s Torturer-in-Chief?

UN Committee Calls for Action against Gen. Abdul Raziq

General Abdul Raziq, Afghan National Police chief for the southern city of Kandahare, addresses officers during their graduation ceremony at the Kandahar Regional Training Center in southern Afghanistan, Jun. 7, 2012. © 2012 United States Air Force

When the United Nations Committee against Torture grilled Afghanistan’s delegation last month about government efforts to curb torture, members asked about one person in particular: Gen. Abdul Raziq. That was no accident. Raziq, the Afghan National Police chief for the southern city of Kandahar, has become synonymous with systematic torture, extrajudicial killings, and enforced disappearances.

Last Friday, the committee released its report describing “numerous and credible allegations” that Raziq is “widely suspected of complicity, if not of personal implication, in severe human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and …secret detention centers.” It urged that “all alleged perpetrators, including … General Abdul Raziq” be “duly prosecuted and, if found guilty, convicted with penalties that are commensurate with the grave nature of their crimes.”

Those crimes are horrific. The Committee against Torture noted the numerous reports of detainees in Kandahar who alleged torture or ill-treatment, including “suffocation, crushing the testicles, water forcibly pumped in the stomach and electric shocks.”

During the UN session, one committee member pointedly asked Afghanistan’s attorney general, Farid Hamidi, what the government of President Ashraf Ghani was doing about Raziq. Hamidi  replied that the Afghan government was “very serious and sensitive about cases of torture.” But he said nothing about Raziq.

Even the Ghani administration seems afraid of Raziq, who operates far outside the law and has powerful support, notably from US intelligence and security officials, who consider him an ally in the fight against the Taliban. The speaker of Afghanistan’s senate and several other senators called the committee report “vague,” and suggested it had been fabricated by Pakistani intelligence. Raziq denied the committee’s allegations.

And that’s the crux of the problem. Almost 16 years after the defeat of the Taliban government, Afghans continue to suffer at the hands of abusive strongmen, warlords and government officials. In failing to hold them accountable, the Afghan government along with its international donors have consistently undermined the very institutions Afghans need to rely on for their security.

Afghanistan has one year to respond to the UN committee’s questions. But unless the government gets serious about bringing to book serial rights-violators like Raziq, that response will do nothing to eradicate Afghanistan’s entrenched culture of impunity.

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