A spokesperson for Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Jan. 9 said that the administration will be releasing 72 prisoners the United States considers dangerous militants from Bagram prison, stating that there was not enough evidence to continue to hold them. The government said that there was no evidence against 45 of the detainees and that there was insufficient evidence against the other 27 to bring them to trial. Karzai's spokesperson stated that the continued detention of the prisoners was an illegal violation of Afghan sovereignty, and that the government could not allow Afghan citizens to be held for months and years at a time without being subject to trial. A US State Department spokeswoman reportedly responded to the decision by stating that the 72 prisoners are dangerous criminals and that there is strong evidence linking them to terrorist activities and the killings of Afghan citizens and US troops.
Pakistan's military partially complied with a Supreme Court ruling on Dec. 7 by producing before the court several prisoners out of the hundreds it has been secretly holding without charges. Human rights lawyers and relatives of the prisoners have fought to obtain information about the detainees, some of whom disappeared from jails while others were directly apprehended by security forces. Most have not appeared in court to be officially charged with a crime, and other prisoners were acquitted in court but seized by the military after their release. The court ruled that the army had to produce the prisoners to establish that they were still alive. Fourteen men in the courtroom had scarves over their faces, but the military would not identify how many of those men were prisoners and how many were relatives or other people who could have identified the prisoners. The identities of the 14 men were not revealed.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Dec. 1 urged the prosecutor's office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to expedite inquiry into international crimes committed in Afghanistan. In November the ICC released the Report on Preliminary Examination Activities (PDF) finding that over 14,300 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan since 2007 and that violence against women has increased. The report also stated that armed anti-government groups and government armed forces have reportedly recruited and used children in attacks. The HRW said that the Afghanistan situation has been under analysis by the ICC since 2007 and that given the alleged ongoing commissions of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the ICC should now expedite their fact-finding mission to Afghanistan.
The latest Afghanistan Opium Survey (PDF), released Nov. 13 by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), finds that the country produced record levels of poppy in 2013. Total production reached 5,500 tons—up by nearly 50% over last year's figure of 3,700. Cultivation amounted to 209,000 hectares (516,000 acres)—a 36% increase over last year. The previous record was 193,000 hectares (477,000 acres) in 2007. And prices dropped by 12%—clearly due to boosted production. Eradication efforts fell by 24%, and the seizure rate lagged behind that of other opium-producing countries.
The Afghanistan Justice Ministry has proposed new provisions to the nation's penal code that allow for stoning as punishment for adultery, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Nov. 25. According to the advocacy group the provision of the proposed penal code, drafted by a Justice Ministry led working group, provides that married individuals found guilty of engaging in sexual intercourse outside a legal marriage will be stoned to death. Also included in the draft law is that if the "adulterer" is unmarried the individual faces a sentence of 100 lashes. Under the Taliban regime which ruled Afghanistan from the mid-1990's through the 2001 US intervention stoning was the punishment for adultery and other moral crimes. According to HRW, Afghanistan is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which precludes nations with the death penalty from making adultery a capital offense.
After four days of deliberations in Kabul, a Loya Jirga of some 2,500 elders and tribal leaders on Nov. 24 announced its endorsement of the Bliateral Security Agreement that will enable thousands of US troops to remain in Afghanistan after the supposed "withdrawal" of NATO forces next year. A similar deal between the US and Iraq collapsed in 2011 over the issue of whether Pentagon troops would have to answer to local courts. A draft text released by Kabul last week appeared to show that Afghan President Karzai had yielded to a US demand for exemption of its troops from Afghan jurisdiction. Nonetheless, Karzai now says he will reject the Loya Jirga's recommendation that he sign the agreement, citing continued civilian casualties at the hands of US forces.
Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf was granted bail Nov. 4 in a criminal case concerning the death of radical cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi during an operation ordered by Musharraf on Islamabad's Red Mosque, which left more than 100 dead. Musharraf was arrested on these charges on Oct. 10. His bail is set to be paid in two bonds of $1,000 each. Prosecutors claim Musharraf caused the deaths by recklessly deploying security forces, while Musharraf's lawyers argue that his involvement was limited. Even after posting bail, Musharraf will be unable to leave the country under the orders from the Pakistani government. Musharraf's house arrest began in April after he was charged with involvement in the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and others.
Aryana Sayeed, a popular singer and TV personality known as the "Adele of Afghanistan," was among the performers at a Kabul "Peace Concert," organized by a network of youth groups and held at the city's Babur Garden venue Oct. 19. In August, she performed at a similar concert held in front of the ruins of the Bamiyan Buddhas that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Sayeed remains unbowed in the face of hate mail and death threats over her refusal to wear the hijab in her performances and TV appearances, becoming an icon of women's freedom in Afghanistan. In a typical statement, parliament member Abdul Satar Khawasi said her show "brings shame to our community and ruins our Islamic and Afghan dignity and culture." Satar has called for a jihad against the reality-style talent showcase program, dubbed "The Voice," in which Sayeed is a judge. In response to the threats, Sayeed said: ""I'm here to make a difference for women. I want women to have rights, to talk freely, to walk freely... I'm not saying that they have to take their clothes off, or even remove their head scarfs. Freedom is being able to live as a human being.'' In one of her music videos, Sayeed sings "Because I am a woman, I am a slave''—against a background of images of women in burqas. (Dawn, Pakistan, Oct. 21; The Nation, Pakistan, Oct. 20; TeleCinco, Spain, Oct. 14; NBC, Oct. 12; DPA, Aug. 17; AFP, Aug. 16; Khaama Press, Afghanistan, July 22)