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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Afghan opposition's 'record of brutality'
Northern Alliance tank crewmen
The NA is the most obvious alternative to the Taleban
The US-led coalition now fighting the Taleban and Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan is reluctant to pledge full support for the main Afghan opposition, in part because of its record on human rights.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), a US-based rights organisation with UN affiliation, warned in a report on 6 October that military support should not be provided to the Northern Alliance (NA), which was created in 1997.


The US and its allies should not cooperate with commanders whose record of brutality raises questions about their legitimacy inside Afghanistan

Sidney Jones, Human Rights Watch

Factions engaged in Afghanistan's long civil war have committed human rights abuses and violated humanitarian law through killings, discriminate aerial bombardment, direct attacks on civilians and summary executions, Human Rights Watch said.

If true, the alleged atrocities and abuses would make the NA little better than the Taleban, long accused of war crimes and abuses in their push to capture the whole of Afghanistan.

Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum
Gen Dostum is one of the NA leaders condemned in the report

Sidney Jones, executive director of HRW's Asia division, said that the US-led coalition should be wary of which NA commanders it worked with.

"The US and its allies should not cooperate with commanders whose record of brutality raises questions about their legitimacy inside Afghanistan," he said.

"Any country that gives assistance to the Afghan opposition must take responsibility for how this assistance is used."

Abuses

The report points to the alleged systematic abuse of largely ethnic Pashtuns during the NA's four-month occupation of Sangcharak in the north between 1999 and 2000.

In September 1998, the forces of NA commander Ahmad Shah Masood are believed to have bombed civilian areas of northern Kabul, killing up to 180 people.

In May 1997, the forces of General Abdul Malik are thought to have brutally executed over 3,000 prisoners after a failed Taleban attack on the city of Mazar-e Sharif.

Taleban prisoners-of-war
The NA and Taleban both stand accused of mistreating prisoners

Other allegations include mass rape and looting in an ethnic Hazara area of Kabul in March 1995 by Commander Masood's Jamiat forces.

The infighting between Jamiat and Jombesh, the major factions which later made up the alliance, should also be taken into consideration.

In 1994, it is estimated that 25,000 people were killed in rocket and artillery attacks in Kabul as the factions fell out over sharing power.

Not a single NA commander has yet been brought to trial for human rights abuses in Afghanistan, and HRW fears the alliance will commit further abuses given the opportunity.

See also:

16 Oct 01 | South Asia
Afghan opposition's strategic target
12 Oct 01 | South Asia
Afghan fighters' shifting loyalties
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan's clandestine army
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
Profile: General Rashid Dostum
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