For Immediate Release
jhutson [at] phrusa [dot] org
Warlord General Dostum’s Return to Kabul Sparks Controversy
Rights Group Calls for Strengthening Rule of Law in Afghanistan
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - In response to the return of a notorious warlord to Afghanistan from Turkey,
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) renews the call it has made
repeatedly over the past seven years for a full investigation of an
alleged massacre of as many as 2,000 Taliban prisoners who surrendered
in November 2001 to US and Afghan forces and who are believed to be buried in the desert of Dasht-e-Leili.
On August 16, General Abdul Rashid Dostum - who is widely reported
to be partly responsible for the massacre and for a subsequent cover-up
- returned to Kabul to campaign for the re-election of President Hamid
Karzai in the August 20 elections. It is widely reported that President
Karzai has offered General Dostum a government post in exchange for his
"Real and lasting peace in Afghanistan will be made possible by
strengthening the rule of law and ending the culture of impunity,"
stated PHR CEO Frank Donaghue.
"Letting General Dostum return to any position of power before there
is a thorough and transparent investigation into whether or to what
extent he may have been involved in the alleged 2001 massacre, will be
seen by the Afghan people as confirmation that warlords like Dostum
have impunity for their crimes," continued Donaghue. "General Dostum
has admitted that these prisoners surrendered jointly to US special
forces and to Northern Alliance troops under his command. As Physicians
for Human Rights has said for 7 years
since the organization's experts discovered the alleged mass grave, the
site must be secured, witnesses must be protected, and Afghanistan must
join the international community in probing how these prisoners died
and why General Dostum and the Bush administration reportedly impeded
investigation into these alleged war crimes. PHR looks forward to
appropriate action from President Obama after he receives a report from
his national security team, whom he ordered to gather all the facts and
report to him on whether the international laws of war were violated."
"Not only is General Dostum alleged to have committed the original
war crime; he is also reportedly responsible for serious tampering with
evidence," stated PHR Deputy Director Susannah Sirkin.
"A Physicians for Human Rights forensic expert in 2008, working under
the auspices of the UN, discovered that large pits have been dug in the
area of Dasht-e-Leili where bodies are suspected to be buried. Analysis
of satellite images performed by the American Association for the
Advancement of Science at PHR's request, shows the apparent presence of
heavy earth-moving equipment at the site in August 2006. McClatchy Newspapers reported on December 11, 2008
that according to witnesses, General Dostum and his commanders "have
taken all the bones and thrown them into the river." And, according to
US Government documents that PHR uncovered in 2006, witnesses to this incident were "tortured, killed, or simply disappeared."
"Afghanistan must work with the international community to ensure
appropriate protection of the site and any remaining physical evidence,
as well as the safety of any witnesses," said Donaghue. "These would be
necessary steps toward fulfilling President Obama's mandate to collect
all available information about the alleged war crimes and the reported
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) shared the
1997 Nobel Peace Prize. PHR was founded in 1986 on the idea that health
professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical commitments, and
credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health
consequences of human rights violations and work to stop them. PHR
mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity and justice
and promotes the right to health for all. PHR has documented the systematic use of psychological and physical torture by US personnel against detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Bagram airbase, and elsewhere.
PHR was founded in 1986 on the idea that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health consequences of human rights violations and work to stop them. PHR mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice and promotes the right to health for all.