Afghanistan

Current laws allow capital punishment for apostasy, homosexuality, and murder.

Prosecutors want death penalty for U.S. soldier accused in Afghan massacre

Robert Bales accused in killings of 16 Afghan villagers may face court-martial

November 13, 2012 http://www.cbc.ca/

Army prosecutors on Tuesday asked an investigative officer to recommend a death penalty court martial for a U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a pre-dawn rampage, saying that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales committed “heinous and despicable crimes.”

Bales, a father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., could face the death penalty. The military last executed a service member in 1961, when an army ammunition handler was hanged for raping an 11-year-old girl in Austria.

Prosecutors made their closing arguments after a week of testimony in the preliminary hearing, known as an Article 32. Prosecutors say Bales, 39, slipped away from his remote base at Camp Belambay to attack two villages early on March 11. The 16-person death toll included nine children.

The slayings drew such angry protests that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan, and it was three weeks before American investigators could reach the crime scenes.

“Terrible, terrible things happened,” said Maj. Rob Stelle, the prosecutor who delivered closing arguments in the preliminary hearing. “That is clear.”

Stelle cited statements Bales made after he was apprehended, saying that they demonstrated “a clear memory of what he had done, and consciousness of wrongdoing.”

Several soldiers testified that Bales returned to the base alone just before dawn, covered in blood, and that he made incriminating statements such as, “I thought I was doing the right thing.”

Case tests military justice system

The U.S. military justice system’s record has shown it is slow to convict service members of alleged war crimes.

A range of factors make prosecuting troops for civilian deaths in foreign lands difficult, including gathering eyewitness testimony and collecting evidence at a crime scene in the midst of a war.

At Bales’ preliminary hearing, the prosecution accommodated the Afghan witnesses by questioning them via a video link and holding the sessions at night. The military said it intends to fly the witnesses from Afghanistan if there is a court martial.

“I think it shows they’re going to prosecute this case no matter what it takes,” said Greg Rinckey, a former U.S. Army lawyer.

— The Associated Press

An attorney for Bales argued there’s not enough information to move forward with the court martial. “There are a number of questions that have not been answered so far in this investigation,” attorney Emma Scanlan told the investigating officer overseeing the preliminary hearing.

Scanlan said it’s still unknown what Bales’ state of mind was the evening of the killings.

An army criminal investigations specialist had testified last week that Bales tested positive for steroids three days after the killings, and other soldiers testified that Bales had been drinking the evening of the massacre.

“We’ve heard that Sgt. Bales was lucid, coherent and responsive,” Scanlan said in her closing argument. “We don’t know what it means to be on alcohol, steroids and sleeping aids.”

The investigating officer said Tuesday that he would have a written recommendation by the end of the week, but that is just the start of the process. That recommendation goes next to the brigade command, and the ultimate decision would be made by the three-star general on the base. There’s no clear sense of how long that could take before a decision is reached on whether to proceed to a court martial.

Afghan witnesses testified at hearing

Bales faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder. The preliminary hearing, which began Nov. 5, included nighttime sessions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the convenience of the Afghan witnesses.

The witnesses included a seven-year-old girl, who described how she hid behind her father when a gunman came to their village that night, how the stranger fired, and how her father died, cursing in pain and anger.

None of the Afghan witnesses were able to identify Bales as the shooter. But other evidence, including tests of the blood on his clothes, implicated him, according to testimony from a DNA expert.

Bales did not testify.

PTSD, brain injury concerns

Kari Bales, left, listens as her sister, Stephanie Tandberg, right, reads a statement Tuesday to reporters after the preliminary hearing for Kari's husband, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.Kari Bales, left, listens as her sister, Stephanie Tandberg, right, reads a statement Tuesday to reporters after the preliminary hearing for Kari’s husband, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

After the hearing concluded, Scanlan spoke with reporters, saying that in addition to questions about Bales’ state of mind, there are still questions of whether there were more people involved.

During testimony, a special agent testified that months after the killings, she was able to interview the wife of one of the victims, who recounted having seen two U.S. soldiers. Later, however, the woman’s brother-in-law, Mullah Baraan, who was not present at the shootings, testified that the woman says there was only one shooter. The woman herself did not testify.

“We need to know if more than one person was outside that wire,” Scanlan said.

Scanlan also raised the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injury, noting that Bales had received a screening at the traumatic brain injury clinic at Madigan Army Medical Center during a period of time that the center is under investigation for reversing hundreds of PTSD diagnoses of soldiers since 2007.

“We’re in the process of investigating that,” she said.

When asked if Bales had ever been diagnosed with PTSD, Scanlan said, “I’m not going to answer that right now.”

Bales’ wife, Kari, and her sister, Stephanie Tandberg, met with reporters briefly after the hearings concluded. Tandberg read a statement, saying “we all grieve deeply for the Afghani families who lost their loved ones on March 11, but we must all not rush to judgment.”

“We are not convinced the government has shown us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what happened that night,” added Tandberg. “We know Bob as bright, courageous and honorable, as a man who is a good citizen soldier, son, husband, father, uncle and sibling. We and Bob’s family are proud to stand by him.”

Ghulam Anwar, Afghan Woman, Allegedly Killed By Husband For Wanting Job

October 22.2012 http://www.huffingtonpost.com

KABUL, Afghanistan — A man in a western Afghan city has confessed to stabbing his wife to death to prevent her from taking a job outside the home, police said Monday.

Mohammad Anwar, who was arrested in the provincial capital for the murder, said he killed his wife during an argument over whether she should work at private company in the city, Herat province police spokesman Noor Khan Nekzad said.

The woman’s relatives disputed the account, saying her husband was a drug addict who killed his wife because she refused to give him money.

The killing comes less than two weeks after a woman was beheaded in the same city for refusing alleged demands by her in-laws to engage in prostitution.

Human rights activists say they are worried such incidents will become more common as Western forces who helped women gain rights in the conservative country draw down. Under Taliban rule, women were banned from leaving the home unless they had a male relative as an escort and wore a burqa robe that covered their faces and bodies.

Despite guaranteed rights and progressive new laws, the U.N. still ranks Afghanistan as one of the world’s worst countries when it comes to women’s rights.

The Taliban’s treatment of women has been thrust back into the headlines this month with the shooting of a 15-year-old schoolgirl in neighboring Pakistan. The militants said they targeted the girl because she was an outspoken opponent of the group and promoted “Western thinking,” such as girls’ education.

Girls’ schools have flourished in Afghanistan in particular in the years since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban, primarily funded by the U.S. and other Western donors.

There were conflicting accounts of what led to the fight between Mohammad Anwar and his wife Gulsom.

Gulsom’s brother, Ghulam Sarwar, said his sister’s husband had just returned from Iran and was pressing her to hand over money that she had earned weaving carpets and which she needed to support their two children. Sarwar said the two got into an argument and she fled the house. He followed her to her parents’ house and then went after her with a knife.

The couple’s two children – an 11-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old boy – have been taken in by Gulsom’s parents, Sarwar said.

The victim’s mother was shown on Afghan television crying and accusing her son-in-law of trying to sell her daughter’s children for drug money. She witnessed the murder but said she had no way of stopping it.

“My daughter was killed in front of my eyes,” said the sobbing Zahra, who family members said only went by one name.

Women’s rights activists have already been up in arms in Herat after the Oct. 9 killing of a young woman named Mah Gul who was allegedly being forced into prostitution.

Police arrested Mah Gul’s mother-in-law Pari Gul and her 18-year old cousin Najib, after the murder. Mabuba Jamshidi, head of the provincial women’s affairs department, said that Najib had confessed to beheading the victim after she refused to perform “immoral acts.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mah Gul, Young Afghan Woman, Reportedly Beheaded For Refusing To Become A Prostitute

October 22, 2012 http://www.huffingtonpost.com

A young woman who refused to be forced into prostitution was beheaded in Afghanistan last week, a murder that illustrates the continuing cycle of violence against women in the country, according to advocates in the region.

The murder comes as the world continues to track the progress of Malala Yousafzai, a14-year-old Pakistani girl shot by Taliban Islamists after advocating for women’s rights.

AFP reports that 20-year-old Mah Gul, who lived in Herat province in western Afghanistan, was killed after she had repeatedly rebuffed her mother-in-law’s attempts to force her into prostitution.

Four people were arrested in connection to the killing, AFP adds, including the alleged beheader, the 18-year-old nephew of Gul’s mother-in-law, Najibullah.

Najibullah, who has already confessed to the killing, said that Gul’s mother-in-law had alerted him that the girl was a prostitute and that he killed the girl with a knife with the help of her mother-in-law.

The brutal torture and murder of Mah Gul by her husband’s family is just “one more incident that highlights the violent atmosphere that women and girls face in Afghanistan and the region,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA, according to CNN.

Earlier in October, a 30-year-old woman was tortured and killed in the same province, the Atlantic reported. The woman was discovered missing her nose, ears, and fingers, and doctors who treated her at Herat regional hospital confirmed she had been tortured before being killed. Investigation in ongoing in that case.

Gul’s murder brings to 20 the number of women killed this year in Herat, the Atlantic adds reported. Family members were accused of involvement in most of the cases.

In a 2011 report on human trafficking in Afghanistan, the State Department wrote that some Afghan women and girls “are subjected to forced prostitution, forced marriages –- including through forced marriages in which husbands force their wives into prostitution, and where they are given by their families to settle debts or disputes.”

In her full statement, Amnesty International’s Nossel decried the ongoing violence inforceful terms.

“[Women] are raped, killed, forced into marriage in childhood, prevented from obtaining an education and denied their sexual and reproductive rights,” Nossel said. “The enduring view that women and girls are disposable and not equal increases the chronic suffering of more than half the population.”

 

 

Afghan women who fight for freedoms

September 25,2012 http://www.theaustralian.com.au

WHEN a burka-clad young woman crouched helplessly awaiting her death sentence in Afghanistan two months ago, many feared little had changed in the 11 years of US-NATO occupation of the troubled central Asian nation.

Afghan woman

The grainy mobile phone footage, captured by one of about 200 witnesses to the 22-year-old’s death in northern Parwan province, shocked the world and brought back chilling memories of the recording of a public execution in Kabul’s football stadium in 1999 at the height of Taliban rule. That faceless, nameless woman became a symbol of the suffering and oppression of Afghan women under the strict Islamic doctrine practised by Taliban.

Today, despite more than 100,000 foreign troops in the country and a protected democratic regime in power, Taliban-inspired atrocities can still happen in daylight just an hour outside the heavily militarised capital.

In July, when the images of a crowd of men cheering each bullet fired into the young woman’s submissive body made news around the world, it left many in the West wondering whether the sacrifices in Afghanistan had been worth it.

As part of a team with SBS’s Dateline program, I took the 60-minute journey from Kabul to Parwan province, travelling as close as I was able into Shinwari district to discover the woman’s identity and why she died.

Her name was Najiba, and locals described her as the most beautiful woman in the area. She was forced to marry a Taliban commander for the price of $5000. Villagers said Najiba told her father she would rather die than marry the man.

After more than year of physical abuse from her husband, Najiba fled to the home of another Taliban commander, who gave her refuge. It’s unclear if she had sexual relations with him. There were also rumours that Najiba had been used as a sex slave by different commanders over several months. None of these claims could be verified. But the shame and dishonour she brought to her husband was her undoing.

To resolve the dispute between the feuding commanders over Najiba, the Taliban created a fake court. Accusing her of adultery, the local Taliban cleric, known as Mullah Khaliq, fabricated a fatwa and declared the only punishment based on their version of sharia law would be execution.

As the crowd gathered along the hillside of the village of Qol in Shinwari, a mullah chanted verses from the Koran while Najiba’s husband prepared to kill her, clipping a magazine into his AK-47. The audience of men cheered as he trembled and prepared to take his aim. Mobile phone recordings showed Najiba’s husband missing his target twice. His third shot entered her back, causing her to sway and fall in a heap. “The order was given by Mullah Abdul Khaliq. Every time her husband shot her, Mullah Abdul Khaliq would say ‘Keep firing’,” recalls Mullah Badam.

Once fully extended on the ground, Najiba’s husband fired a number of shots from close range into her feeble body. The roar of the surrounding men at times deafened the gunshots.

While this horrifying scene may resemble what happened in that football stadium 13 years ago, in fact, much has changed. Within hours of Najiba’s horrible death being broadcast worldwide, women in Afghanistan poured into the streets, seeking justice.

The leading voice was Fawzia Koofi, 37, an MP from the northern Badakhshan province, who is also Deputy Speaker of the Afghan parliament and aims to lead the country after elections due within two years.

As an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, Koofi is only too happy to make Najiba the latest symbol of her campaign. “You bring a woman, and she is very defenceless, you bring her out and you kill her in front of everybody, and people cheer it and say ‘Allah Akbar’. That is not part of our identity but rather an important phenomenon of war,” Koofi says.

In the three months since Najiba’s death, Koofi has travelled to Parwan many times to take on the authorities. On a visit to the local governor in his guest house, she puts the men in the room on notice, from the state governor through to the representative of foreign forces and local police.

“So what is your plan for conducting operations in Shinwari to arrest the murderers of this woman, without trial?” she demands. The US commander gives a vague response: “We will continue to work with the Afghan army and police.”

Koofi looks unimpressed. The police chief then attempts to give the MP an answer. “We have a number of operations underway and we give you every assurance that in the very near future we will capture these killers of this innocent woman,” General Mohammad Bekzhad says.

Koofi has many male allies within the district who are supportive in her fight for Afghan women. It was General Bekzhad and his police chief Haji Abdul Hussein who smuggled a mobile phone into the execution ritual to record it for investigators.

“People in the valley wanted to capture this and show the world what was going on in their district, that there are these terrorists living among them who want to kill people,” says Hussein.

Of the 2000 residents of Najiba’s village, only about 80 are Taliban. “If you look at the geography of this country and terrain, it’s possible that even if there were less than 80 fighters they can be victorious because they know the area so well,” Bekzhad says.

For every execution that appears on the internet, hundreds of episodes of abuse and slavery in Afghanistan fail to attract publicity. “Najiba’s story is a small example because it got out to the media and came to the attention of politicians,” says Koofi “Cases like this happen a lot, but they’re like a silent tsunami – we don’t know about them.”

One such case was that of Sahar Gul, 14, whose plight was revealed by The Australian’s South Asia correspondent, Amanda Hodge, in July. Now living in protective custody in a women’s shelter in Kabul, her scars have healed from the six months she was confined in a cell at her husband’s home in the northern Baghlan province. She had been beaten and tortured by her in-laws.

Shelter supervisor Anisa Nuzhat keeps pictures of the girl’s condition when she was discovered. Her face is black with bruises in the photos, her hair is ripped out of her scalp and her nails removed.

Koofi, who helped the girl seek treatment, describes the first time she saw her months after she had recovered.

“It was interesting because she had nail polish on the same nails that were removed by her in-laws. She had nail polish on and was cheering her liberty.”

Sitting next to Sahar Gul is a playful and affectionate 18-year-old, Mumtaz. Despite her outgoing personality, Mumtaz will never be able to hide the visible battering her face has taken from an acid attack by one of her suitors.

“It was 1am when seven men entered the house. They hit me, broke my arm and attacked my parents,” she recalls.

“Then they threw acid over us and left. I fell unconscious. When I woke up I was in hospital. They wouldn’t let me look in the mirror.”

Without the social workers who rescued them, the fate of these women would be uncertain. “I get death threats all the time,” the social worker says.

“Yes, I worry about my safety, but I can’t just abandon these women. I see how much danger they are in and how much violence they face.

“Ninety per cent of Afghan women, a large majority, are living under cruelty and violence.”

Many Afghans – from the palace of President Hamid Karzai down to local authorities – have joined a genuine attempt to boost the status of women. Violence and suppression continues, but many women now have freedom to demonstrate, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

Women in Afghanistan have a long way to go, but they also know they’ve come a long way since the days of the Taliban regime. None of them is prepared to give up the little they have gained.

Deadly blast targets Afghan police

June 18, 2012 Source : http://www.aljazeera.com

Second suicide attack in as many weeks kills four police officers in Kapisa, including group commander of local force.

A suicide bomber has detonated his explosives in eastern Afghanistan, killing four police officers and five civilians.

Witnesses told Al Jazeera that local police appeared to be the target of Monday’s attack in eastern Kapisa province, where the majority of France’s 3,500 troops in Afghanistan are stationed.

The explosion in Tagab, a troubled district of Kapisa, killed the local police commander, his son, and two of his guards, provincial governor Mehrabuddin Safi told the AFP news agency.

Seventeen civilians were injured in the blast in the town’s main bazaar, the governor said.

Homayoun Rashidi, a local police spokesman, said the bombing targeted a group commander in the force known as the Afghan Local Police, which forms part of the Afghan government‘s security forces but does not come under the national police set-up.Most of the wounded were Afghan civilians visiting the town for the weekly market day.

Monday’s blast is the second in as many weeks in Kapisa province.

Four French troops and two of their Afghan interpreters were killed in a suicide bomb attack last weekend, which was claimed by the Taliban.

That attack led French President Francois Hollande to call for the withdrawal of French troops from the Central Asian nation starting from July.