Saturday, October 11, 2014

Busted | Afghanistan to execute five men for gang rape

Afghan men are due to be executed on Wednesday for the gang rape of four women, after a trial that drew criticism from international observers and a nationwide outcry over the attack, The Guardian reports.

The attorney general’s office said the convicted men would be hanged at a prison in Kabul, after the sentence was reviewed by three courts and signed by Hamid Karzai in one of his last acts as president.

“It is also at the request of the public that they should be hanged for the sort of crimes they committed,” said Ibrahim Khil, an adviser to the attorney general.

The sentences were administered with such swiftness that some worry that the court caved to mob justice. The verdicts were based entirely on confessions, which all five defendants claim were obtained by police torture.

Human rights organisations say the trial was marred by inconsistencies, lack of due process and political interference. Karzai, who has usually opposed capital punishment, declared before the trial had begun that he wanted the suspects sentenced to death.

On 23 August, four women were travelling with their husbands through Paghman, a district of Kabul province, when their cars were pulled over by 10 men, some of them armed and in police uniforms. The men robbed and beat the travellers and raped the women within earshot of the husbands.

Two weeks later, seven suspects were convicted, but not of rape. In what was said to be an attempt to avoid further public humiliation of the victims, the suspects were charged with armed robbery and adultery, known as zina. Five were sentenced to death and two to 20 years in prison.

While rape cases are not uncommon in Afghanistan, the scale of the incident transfixed the country, and protesters in Kabul called for the public execution of the convicted men.

“If these seven people were not sentenced to death, it would be a large disgrace and insult to women all over the country,” said Khalida, 38, a schoolteacher. She said this kind of justice was necessary for women to feel able to leave the house, go to work and take part in public life. “I expect them to be hanged in public in front of all women and the people of Afghanistan,” she said.

The new president, Ashraf Ghani, has received praise for his first week in office, signing a much-delayed security agreement with international forces, reopening a large bank fraud case and promising to fight harassment of schoolgirls.

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