America would be in breach of its international obligations if it allowed the Northern Alliance to refuse to accept the surrender of Taliban soldiers in the Afghan cities of Kunduz and Kandahar, lawyers and human rights groups have warned.
They said that under international law America could be held responsible for genocide if Taliban troops were massacred despite offering to surrender. Under the Geneva Convention, it is illegal to give no quarter to the enemy.
Richard Gordon QC, an international human rights barrister, said: "The US does bear some responsibility for ensuring [the Taliban troops] are treated humanely because [the US] are effectively in control."
Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defense Secretary, has warned United Nations and anti-Taliban fighters not to let Taliban and al-Qa'ida hardliners negotiate flight from Afghanistan to "make their mischief" else-where. He also opposed any settlement that might permit the surrender and ultimate release of Taliban and al-Qa'ida fighters now trapped in the besieged cities of Kunduz in the north and Kandahar in the south.
Human Rights Watch is also concerned by reports of large-scale summary executions of would-be Taliban defectors by foreign fighters in Kunduz.
© 2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd