by The New York Times –
KABUL (July 29, 2003) — A human rights report documenting widespread extortion, armed robbery and kidnapping by the police, intelligence officials and militias in Afghanistan accuses the United States of continuing its support of some of the worst offenders and blames the international community for not doing enough to intervene and stem the abuses.
The 101-page report, titled “Killing You Is a Very Easy Thing for Us,” by the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch, is a list of violent crimes committed against Afghan civilians in recent months in 12 provinces that make up eastern and southeastern Afghanistan. It also details threats against journalists, and political and women activists in those areas.
The report accuses soldiers, the police, commanders and even cabinet ministers serving the current government of being responsible for much of the violence, which, it says, is occurring across the whole of Afghanistan in a similar fashion. The perpetrators are people who came to power thanks to United States and coalition intervention against the Taliban in 2001, and who are now abusing their positions of power, the reports says.
“The United States in particular bears much of the responsibility for the actions of those they have propelled to power, for failing to take steps against other abusive leaders, and for impeding attempts to force them to step aside,” it says. “Their continued funding, joint operations, and fraternizing with warlords has sent, at best, mixed messages about their goals and intentions.”
The authors of the report warn that the warlords and abusive commanders will become only more entrenched with time and could threaten the success of President Hamid Karzai’s government. It calls for an expansion of the international peacekeeping force and concerted international support for a disarmament and demobilization program.
The report does not criticize Karzai, although diplomats and government officials have complained that it is the president’s own indecisiveness and his policy of appeasing powerful warlords to keep the peace, that has kept many of the abusers in power.
“Many of these violations are preventable, but solutions will require the concerted attention and action of international and Afghan authorities alike, which to date has not been sufficiently forthcoming,” Human Rights Watch says.
A Western diplomat welcomed the report for revealing the situation on the ground. But he added that there was little international support to send more peacekeepers, and that instead money and resources would be channeled into training new Afghan police. “The Afghans have to police themselves,” he said.
The most serious abuses documented in the report involve armed robbery, abduction, rape and assault of civilians, often committed by members of the police, military and intelligence service with the knowledge of high-level commanders. Soldiers and police officers are accused of extortion, arbitrary arrests, beatings, holding people for ransom in “private prisons,” and possible torture.
Villagers in Paghman, a region west of Kabul city, recount how they have to patrol their houses at night in order to deter armed robbers, many of whom they say are local police and soldiers loyal to Abdul Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf, the mujahedeen leader who is a member of the Northern Alliance. Often the robberies involve rape and abduction of women.
The report says that much of the violence occurs because the armed men who run the police and army bases in every district create a climate of impunity. Some of the violence, it says, is driven by power struggles and ethnic rivalries, and by the fact that police officers and soldiers, often unpaid for months, resort to robbery.
Particularly damning are descriptions of threats and beatings by high-level officials or their men.
An unnamed editor supplies the title of the report, attributing it to a statement by armed men serving the defense minister, Muhammad Qasim Fahim, who came to his house after he published a cartoon of Karzai and Fahim. “They threatened me,” he says in the report. “They said: ‘Look, killing you is a very easy thing for us. Look: We have 30 bullets in our clips. I can shoot all of these 30 bullets into your chest right now, and there is no one who can stop us.'”
Some abuses are committed by men loyal to people who have been politically sidelined themselves but retain influence through commanders loyal to them, the report says.
But other culprits, the report says, hold important government positions and work closely with US forces in the war against terror.
Source: The report is available at: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/afghanistan0703/