UN condemns Afghanistan’s public executions, calls for end to capital punishment

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The United Nations on Wednesday condemned recent public executions in Afghanistan, urging the Taliban authorities to cease the use of capital punishment.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government publicly executed three convicted murderers in the past week on death warrants signed by Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada.

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All three men were shot multiple times in front of large crowds that included the families of their victims.

“We are appalled by the public executions of three people at sports stadiums in Afghanistan in the past week,” said Jeremy Laurence, spokesman for the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner in a statement.

“Public executions are a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” the statement added.

“Such executions are also arbitrary in nature and contrary to the right to life protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Afghanistan is a State party.”

The United States, the only Western democracy that still practises capital punishment, also condemned the public executions.

“It’s another sign of the brutality that the Afghan government shows to its own people,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Tuesday.

During the Taliban’s first rule from 1996 to 2001, public executions were common.

Since their return to power in August 2021, a handful of executions have been conducted in accordance with their government’s austere vision of Islam.

Corporal punishment -- mainly flogging -- has been common, however, and employed for crimes including theft, adultery and alcohol consumption.

The UN statement urged the authorities “to establish an immediate moratorium on any further executions, and to act swiftly to prohibit use of the death penalty in its entirety.

“Corporal punishment must also cease,” it added.

Amnesty International last week called the Taliban government’s death penalty policy “a gross affront to human dignity”.

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