EU rights groups condemn Afghan executions

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The European Union and international rights groups on Wednesday condemned Afghanistan's execution of eight prisoners and urged Kabul to drop plans to hang more soon.

President Hamid Karzai has approved the execution of 16 people after their death sentences were confirmed by three courts, presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told AFP.

Eight death row prisoners, convicted of murder, kidnapping and rape, were hanged on Tuesday and eight more are expected to be put to death within days.

“The Afghan government should end its sudden surge of executions and institute a moratorium on further executions,” Human Rights Watch said.

“The weakness of the Afghan legal system and the routine failure of courts to meet international fair trial standards make Afghanistan's use of the death penalty especially troubling,” it said.

Executions have been infrequent since the 2001 fall of the Taliban regime, which put people to death for adultery and other infringements of Islamic law.

One man, Abdullah Shah, was executed in 2004 for murder, 15 were killed by firing squad in October 2007 and seven in 2008. Last year, two Taliban militants were executed for an attack on a bank which left 38 people dead.

Amnesty International said some 200 prisoners are reportedly on death row in Afghanistan.

“The death penalty should never be used to achieve political gain or popularity,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director.

“We urge President Karzai to halt these executions immediately. The sheer number of people who could be killed by the state is a particularly shocking use of what is the ultimate cruel and inhuman form of punishment.”

The EU mission in Afghanistan called on the government to commute all death sentences and to reintroduce a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing capital punishment.

“The European Union is opposed to the use of capital punishment in all cases and under any circumstances. The death penalty is cruel and inhumane,” the EU delegation said in a statement.

A military court on Monday rejected an appeal by an Afghan soldier sentenced to death for killing five French troops in an insider attack in January -- the first such conviction for a so-called ‘green-on-blue’ attack.

The French foreign ministry at the time said it “took note” of the sentence, adding its thoughts were with the soldiers who were killed and their families.