(Washington, D.C.)– Amnesty International calls on Afghanistan’s Parliament to delay its vote to appoint a new national intelligence director until it carries out a thorough and transparent investigation into claims of his involvement in numerous alleged acts of torture and other grave human rights violations.
On September 15 legislators in Kabul are due to vote on President Hamid Karzai’s proposal to appoint Assadullah Khalid as the new director of Afghanistan’s state intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS).
Khalid has been linked to numerous cases of torture and unlawful killings in the past decade while he served as governor of Afghanistan’s Ghazni and Kandahar provinces.
“Any nominees for senior posts in Afghanistan’s government must be subject to stringent screening before being appointed, specifically when – as in Assadullah Khalid’s case – they face allegations of committing or overseeing serious human rights violations and crimes under international law,” said Polly Truscott, deputy director for the Asia-Pacific program at Amnesty International.
A checkered past
Khalid was governor of Ghazni province from 2001-2005 and Kandahar province from 2005-2008.
During this time, there were a number of reports of his direct and indirect involvement in crimes under international law – including torture and unlawful killings.
In 2007, Amnesty International reported on cases of torture at NDS detention facilities, including in Kandahar.
As provincial governor at the time, Khalid had oversight of such facilities and was in command of Brigade 888 – an armed squad which allegedly arbitrarily arrested and tortured individuals believed to have links to the Taliban or other armed insurgency groups. At the time it was widely reported that the Brigade’s detainees were tortured on the governor’s premises.
In a number of cases, the alleged torture victims had been handed over to the NDS by international forces serving with the International Security Assistance Force operations in Afghanistan.
There are also credible allegations that Khalid was involved in the bombing of a vehicle that killed five UN workers in Kandahar in April 2007.
“Before voting on whether to appoint him, parliamentarians should question Assadullah Khalid openly about all allegations of serious human rights violations allegedly committed in the past – including while he commanded the 888 Brigade in Kandahar whose violations include the arrest, detention and torture of those suspected of having links to the Taliban and other armed insurgent groups,” said Truscott.
Other contentious nominees
Afghanistan’s Parliament (Wolesi Jirga) is also due to vote shortly on other candidates for senior government posts, including the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Interior.
“All members of the Wolesi Jirga must ensure that the human rights record of every nominee for a senior government position has been fully assessed by the President’s Advisory Panel on Senior Appointments, as required by law,” said Truscott.
Before approving any such appointments, the Parliament must fully and openly consider any credible allegations of the candidates’ links to serious human rights violations.
Reforming the NDS
Amnesty International believes that the secrecy surrounding the mandate, powers and operations of the NDS has long constituted a very serious obstacle to monitoring the treatment of detainees, processing complaints, and providing redress to the victims of torture and other ill-treatment.
For several years, the organization has urged the Afghan authorities to address these issues within the NDS as part of broader security sector reform aimed at bolstering the rule of law in Afghanistan.
“The Afghan Parliament must push for the reform of the NDS to bring an end to rampant torture of detainees and other human rights violations – like any other legislation, laws and regulations to reform the intelligence agency should be subject to open and transparent debate on the Parliament floor,” said Truscott.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.