AAN has learned that a new committee to review security prisoners – as called for by the peace jirga and decreed by the president on 5 June – has been set up and has held its first meetings. Member and spokesperson for the committee, Professor Nasrullah Stanekzai, told AAN the committee was currently getting lists of prisoners from various Afghan security agencies and foreign forces and will start by reviewing those prisoners who are in legal limbo – not under investigation, not charged and not sentenced – but not released either. The committee told AAN it hopes to free its first prisoners in a week’s time.
On the last day of the peace jirga, to great applause, Karzai told the delegates: “You asked for the release of some of the Taleban and other opponents who are detained merely for being in the opposition and in the name of Taleban and who do not have any guilt and who are in the prisons of the Afghan government and foreigners. I will act promptly. Your resolution is a guide for the Afghan government. We are obliged to implement it from the start to the end, and God willing, I will act jointly with you.”
Indeed, the president lost no time in acting, issuing a decree the following day which set up a committee to review security prisoners:
“As part of the efforts to act on the proposals and recommendations made by the historic Peace Jirga, a committee led by the Justice Minister and with reresentatives of the Supreme Court, the Independent Peace and Reconciliation Commission, the Attorney General’s Office and the Head of the Presidential Legal Advisory Board, shall be established to review and look into the cases of persons in custody for connections with the armed opposition, without sufficient legally binding criminal evidence. The Committee shall conduct a comprehensive review of the cases and release those held without legally binding evidence or conviction, and report back to the President.” (Presidential Decree number 34)
The committee is already up and running and has had at least three meetings. It is headed by the Minister of Justice, Habibullah Ghaleb, with four other members: the Deputy Attorney General, Mohammad Faqiryar; member of the Supreme Court, Judge Mohammad Tajali; Professor Nasrullah Stanikzai, Professor of Law at Kabul University and Chief of the Legal and Judiciary Board to the President; and Sheikh Muhammad Aref Ghoriani, a member of the Independent Peace and Reconciliation Commission (headed by Sebghatullah Mujadiddi).
“We started last week,” Nasrullah Stanekzai told AAN, “we are seeing lists of prisoners.” He said NDS, the counter-terrorism unit at MoI, the Attorney General’s office and foreign forces were sending lists of security prisoners’ names and details. For the moment, only one of four categories of security prisoner is being selected for review:
1. Those who have been to court and been sentenced – not being reviewed
2. Those “under the process of the law” – not being reviewed
3. The newly detained who are still under investigation – not being reviewed
4. Those detained, against whom the evidence has been too inadequate to try in court – being reviewed.
In other words, the new committee is reviewing those security prisoners who are in legal limbo, who are still in custody even though their investigations have finished, but there is no expectation of charging them or putting them on trial because the evidence is insufficient. The committee is first reviewing security prisoners in Kabul and will then work through the provinces.
As to the concerns of those, including human rights groups and AAN, who fear political interference in the process (see earlier blogs), Stanekzai insisted the committee would not be “talking to people” and this would be a solely legal process. He said they would be reporting the names and details of prisoners to the President. However, he insisted the Attorney General’s office would decide on any releases “according to the law.” The first releases, he said, should begin next week. Eventually, they hoped to move on to review other categories of prisoners, including those who have gone through the courts and are currently serving jail sentences.
So far, then, the actual workings of the committee are reigned back from Karzai’s heady declaration that the jirga had obliged him to free some of those prisoners who were detained merely “for being in the opposition and in the name of Taleban and who do not have any guilt.” However, the fact that the prisoner issue has been acted upon so swiftly does seems to suggest an interest in the matter, on the government’s side, beyond the simple review of legal prisoner statuses and the release of those who may have very little to do with the armed resistance.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020