Page last updated at 12:05 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 13:05 UK

Karzai urged to halt executions

President Karzai of Afghanistan
Under Afghan law, the President must endorse any death sentence

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been called on not to sign execution orders for around 100 prisoners because of concerns over fair trial standards.

The US-based Human Rights Watch said Afghanistan's legal system did not meet international standards in capital cases.

It said the Supreme Court's sentencing of the prisoners showed "a disturbing disregard for the right to life".

The group also called on President Karzai to suspend the death penalty.

The Supreme Court says that those sentenced to death were convicted of serious crimes such as murder, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery.

'Huge setback'

According to Afghan law, death sentences which have been confirmed by the Supreme Court must then be endorsed by the President.

Elaine Pearson, Asia Deputy Director of Humans Rights Watch said: "More mass executions will be a huge setback for the rule of law in Afghanistan."

In a statement, she went on: "The Supreme Court's blanket confirmation of a hundred death sentences shows disturbing disregard for the right to life."

"The Afghan justice system still has a long way to go to respect the basic rights of the accused."

The rights group argues that the country's legal system fails to meet standards for due process and fair trials.

Executions have been relatively rare in Afghanistan since the ousting of the Taleban in 2001.

But last year 14 people accused of a variety of crimes were executed at the same time by firing squad.

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