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UN human rights chief urges end to death penalty in Afghanistan

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Tuesday urged [press release] Afghan President Hamad Karzai [official website; BBC profile] to put a stop to executions and join nations calling for a death penalty moratorium. The call came after five prisoners were executed over the last four days. Pillay conceded that the prisoners were convicted of serious crimes but expressed her concern about the risk of executing innocent people. AFP has more.

In 2004, the Afghan government implemented a de facto death penalty moratorium that it continued until last October, when it resumed the death penalty [JURIST report] by executing 15 prisoners by firing squad at Pul-e-Charkhi [BBC backgrounder], the country's largest prison. Then-UN rights chief Louise Arbour had urged reinstatement of the ban, but Karzai rejected [JURIST reports] such calls in April, saying that while he prefers life sentences, he will abide by Islamic law's sanctioning of the death penalty for certain crimes, including kidnapping and murder. In December, the UN General Assembly passed [JURIST report] a non-binding worldwide death penalty moratorium [text, PDF], calling on a suspension, rather than a complete abolition, of capital punishment.

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