HRW Urges War Crimes Charges for Jailed Head of IS-Linked Group

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging the Afghan government to bring war crimes charges against the captured leader of the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), an affiliate of the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

In a statement late on April 6, HRW said Afghanistan must afford a fair trial in accordance with international human rights standards for Aslam Farooqi, who was arrested two days earlier in Kandahar Province.

Farooqi, whose real name is Abdullah Orakzai, became the ISKP leader in July 2019. The group has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks across Afghanistan that have killed scores of civilians.

HRW said Farooqi’s capture is an opportunity for the authorities in Afghanistan to show that they are capable of securing fair justice for victims of war crimes and other atrocities.

Afghanistan has “a poor record in bringing individuals implicated in human rights abuses and war crimes to justice,” HRW said.

Farooqi’s arrest is “an opportunity for the Afghan authorities to show that they are capable of securing fair justice for victims of war crimes and other atrocities,” added Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at the New York-based human rights watchdog.

Ensuring that victims of ISKP attacks can testify at the trial is “key” in ensuring that “justice is not only done, but seen to be done by those most affected by Farooqi’s crimes,” Gossman said.

From 2016 to 2018, ISKP militants targeted dozens of Shi’ite mosques and other facilities in Kabul and other Afghan cities, killing and injuring thousands of civilians.

The group claimed responsibility for a March 25 assault on a Sikh temple in Kabul that left at least 25 worshipers dead.

Afghanistan is holding thousands of suspects behind bars under “overly broad terrorism laws” but has not charged any with war crimes or crimes against humanity, which are included in the country’s 2017 Penal Code, according to HRW.

The group said that trials of terrorism suspects “are held in secret and often rely on confessions coerced under torture,” and the authorities have made “no efforts to solicit victims’ participation” in the trials.

“Afghanistan owes it to the victims to carry out a credible prosecution and fair trial of Aslam Farooqi and others accused of serious crimes,” Gossman said. “The pursuit of justice is essential if Afghanistan is to bring an end to such violence.”