HRW asks US to probe Wardak killings
KABUL (PAN): A global human rights group on Thursday asked the US to undertake a thorough and impartial investigation into new allegations of American forces’ complicity in the killings of 18 men in Afghanistan.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said an article published in Rolling Stone magazine contained new information that US personnel were implicated in the killings in the Nirkh district of central Maidan Wardak province in late 2012 and early 2013.
In a statement, the Washington-based organisation demanded US personnel who participated in or were otherwise responsible for the abuses should be criminally prosecuted.
Several high-profile cases had resulted in convictions and substantial punishments, but many other serious incidents had resulted in minimal or no charges, or in disproportionately light punishments, the group regretted.
Andrea Prasow, the HRW senior counterterrorism counsel, said: “The Nirkh incidents should be investigated rigorously, impartially and transparently. While it is clear that crimes occurred, US authorities need to establish what exactly happened and who is responsible.”
In November 2012, local residents claimed they were connected to operations by a new US Special Forces unit in the district. In February, the body of a man named Nasratullah was found, with his throat slit. His family said US forces had earlier arrested Nasratullah.
Following protests against the abuses, President Hamid Karzai called for US forces to leave the province. In April, the unit withdrew from Nirkh. A shepherd later located human remains near the team’s former base perimeter, prompting villagers to dig in the area.
Over the following two months, human remains were found in five other locations near the base, some intact, some only body parts, according to the statement. Local authorities identified the remains as belonging to 10 men from Nirkh who had earlier been taken into custody by US forces.
According to Afghan government documents, at least 8 other men had been killed in operations linked to the US military unit. In the following months, family members of the 10 men gave consistent accounts of their arrests to the United Nations, Afghan officials and journalists.
The Rolling Stone article features accounts from Afghan officials, relatives and neighbours arrested with the people who “disappeared” or were killed, and Afghans who worked with US forces.
An interpreter with the US military, Kandahari, was detained in July. In an interview in jail, he told Rolling Stone he had not committed abuses or killings and that the US military was responsible for the abuses.
But his assertions are contradicted by information detailed in the Rolling Stone article and in UN reporting. US explanations placing all of the blame on Kandahari for the incidents also lack credibility, HRW said.
“Simply blaming one Afghan interpreter for 18 deaths discredits the US commitment to get at the truth,” Prasow said. “The US investigation should go beyond the people who carried out the killings and examine who may have assisted in the crimes or failed to take action to stop it.”
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