• Press Release

The death penalty will not deliver security in Afghanistan

May 9, 2016

The death penalty will deliver neither the justice that victims deserve nor the security that Afghanistan seeks, Amnesty International said today.

Six men were executed on May 8, 2016 after they were convicted for their involvement in a series of high-profile violent attacks – including the 2011 killing of former President and head of the High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and an attack on a Kabul supermarket in the same year.

The executions mark the first time the government of President Ashraf Ghani has resorted to this cruel, unjust and irreversible punishment this year. Since a bombing last month in Kabul that killed more than 64 people, the Afghanistan government has vowed to implement the death penalty more frequently.

“The families who lost loved ones in violent attacks deserve justice for these appalling crimes,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director. “But the death penalty merely serves as vengeance, perpetuates the cycle of violence, and fails to address any root causes.”

“Afghanistan should immediately halt all executions and establish a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty as a first step towards its full abolition. At a time when most of the world has turned its back on this cruel practice, President Ashraf Ghani is moving in the wrong direction.”

“There is no evidence that the death penalty acts as a particular deterrent. In Afghanistan, where there are very serious questions about the fairness and transparency of the legal process, and the use of torture or other ill-treatment by security forces to extract ‘confessions’ from the defendants, the injustice of the punishment is only compounded.”

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.


In a recent speech in Parliament, President Ashraf Ghani said that his government will “deal severely with those who shed the blood of our innocent people and soldiers,” and “show no mercy when punishing them.” The Taliban have repeatedly threatened reprisal attacks for any executions of its members.

In 2015, Amnesty International recorded one execution in Afghanistan, and at least 12 new death sentences were imposed for murder and rape.

Afghanistan’s resort to executions breaks with the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty. The majority of the world’s countries have now abolished this punishment for all crimes and 140 countries are abolitionist in law or practice. Four more countries –Congo (Republic of), Fiji, Madagascar and Suriname – abolished the death penalty in 2015 and Mongolia adopted a new Criminal Code which will repeal this punishment from September 2016.

The death penalty has often been applied in Afghanistan following proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards.