Afghanistan Theater

HRW calls for ICC inquiry on Afghanistan crimes

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.

Afghan opium production hits new record high

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.

Afghan penal code to include stoning for adultery?

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.

Karzai punts on US 'security agreement'

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.

Musharraf granted bail in Red Mosque killings case

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. 

Women's freedom icon rocks Kabul peace concert

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)

Pakistan Taliban leader killed in drone strike?

A US drone strike on a vehicle in Danday Darpa Khel village near Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal agency, is reported to have killed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander Hakimullah Mehsud Nov. 1. At least six others were also killed in the attack, including two militant commanders, identified as Tariq Mehsud and Abdullah. Locals are still ​trying to retrieve the dead and injured from the wreckage, and it is not yet confirmed that Hakimullah Mehsud was in the vehicle. Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan called the attack an attempt to sabotage the government's plan to hold talks with the TTP. It was the second drone attack since Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif's visit to the US last week, when he demanded President Barack Obama to stop the attacks. (The News, Pakistan, Nov. 1; Reuters, Oct. 24)

US must investigate Pakistan drone strikes: Amnesty

Amnesty International (AI) on Oct. 22 urged the US to conduct a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into allegations that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone strikes have resulted in recent civilian casualties in Pakistan. AI reviewed (PDF) more than 50 reported US drone strikes in Pakistan from January 2012 to August 2013, many of which resulted in multiple civilian deaths. AI asserts that, because the US government refuses to provide "accurate information" with respect to specific drone strikes, and its drone program in general, certain CIA operatives may be guilty of arbitrary and extrajudicial executions in violation of international law. According to AI, the US is obligated by international law to fully investigate each strike and ensure that guilty parties are brought to justice.