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Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
UN warns against Afghan grave probe
Taleban fighter
The northern Taleban fighters surrendered at Kunduz
The United Nations special envoy to Afghanistan has said the time is not yet right to investigate reports of a mass grave containing the bodies of hundreds of Taleban prisoners in the north of the country.

Speaking in Kabul, Lakhdar Brahimi said such an enquiry should happen eventually, but the fledgling Afghan Government did not have the capacity to deal with one at this time.


There is no judicial system that we can really expect to face up to a situation like this

Lakhdar Brahimi
He said the priority now must be with the living not the dead, and that the Afghan authorities were not able to protect the lives of potential witnesses.

Human rights organisations say up to 1,000 Taleban captives suffocated last year while being transported in containers from their former stronghold of Kunduz to prison at Sheberghan.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said they had discovered a grave site at Dasht-e Leili, near Sheberghan, on visits to the area earlier this year.

'Lots to do'

Mr Brahimi maintained he was leaving Kabul for the UN General Assembly in a confident mood.

He pointed out that the Afghan people were desperately conscious of the need for peace and that there was no appetite for a return to the nightmare of conflict which had beset the country for so long.

Lakhdar Brahimi
Brahimi is in confident mood
However, he said there was still a huge amount to do and that sacrifices must be made.

Referring to allegations that Northern Alliance forces loyal to local Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostum murdered hundreds of Taleban prisoners in Dasht-e-Leili, he said the government was not equipped to deal with the investigation.

"There is no judicial system that we can really expect to face up to a situation like this," he said.

"We certainly owe it to the people who were killed, their relatives... but our responsibility to the living has to take precedence."

While he said he believed an investigation should be carried out eventually, he said the newly formed Afghan Human Rights Commission was not yet up to the task.

Remains scavenged

PHR visited a number of graves, most of which dated from a period four or five years ago when Mazar-e-Sharif changed hands several times.

They are alleged to contain large numbers of ethnic Hazaras killed by the Taleban at that time.

But the group says it also discovered newly buried remains strewn about the ground after being scavenged by dogs and birds.

The group says that without a full forensic investigation, it is impossible to determine exactly who these people were.

But it says several sources have alleged they include some Taleban who surrendered to the Northern Alliance in November and December last year.


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22 Aug 02 | South Asia
03 May 02 | South Asia
07 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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