Page last updated at 23:15 GMT, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

UN dismay over Afghan executions

By Pam O'Toole
BBC News

Navi Pillay
Navi Pillay is concerned that some executions followed flawed trials.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed dismay at the execution of at least five convicted prisoners in Afghanistan this week.

Navi Pillay urged the Afghan government to halt any further planned executions.

The UN said the five had been executed after orders were signed by President Hamid Karzai.

It says these were the first state implemented executions in Afghanistan since October 2007, when the government executed 15 prisoners.

Before that, it said, Afghanistan had observed a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 2004.

Much more needs to be done by the Afghan government, according to the UN's High Commissioner's spokesman, Rupert Colville.

"We're concerned that essentially in Afghanistan the law enforcement, the police, the judicial systems, fall short of internationally accepted standards - a long way short - guaranteeing due process and fair trial," he said.

"And obviously under those circumstances there's a very serious risk that there will be miscarriages of justice and that innocent people may be executed," he added.

Security concerns

But in Afghanistan itself, ordinary people are said to be increasingly worried about the rising insecurity, including crimes such as murder, rape and kidnapping.

Many of them, like this man, are strongly in favour of the death penalty.

"I think these five people who have been executed - this is a good thing, according to Sharia and Islamic law. It's a good thing that they have been executed. They should be punished for their crimes," he said.

Kabul is currently under pressure to take action to improve security and the UN says it believes more executions could be scheduled to take place in Afghanistan over the next few days.

Navi Pillay has called on President Karzai to halt any further planned executions and rejoin what she described as the growing international consensus for a moratorium on the death penalty.

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