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Afghan prison commander jailed for 12 years for war crimes by Dutch court

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(Last Updated On: April 15, 2022)

An Afghan man was convicted by a Dutch court on Thursday of war crimes and torture for abusing political opponents at Kabul’s Pul-e-Charkhi prison in the 1980s and was sentenced to 12 years in jail.

Judges said the man, 76, who had been calling himself Abdul Rafief, was actually Abdul Razaq Arif who served as commander of the prison between 1983 and 1990. They dismissed his testimony that he was the victim of a mistaken identity, Reuters reported.

A lawyer for Arif said he would appeal.

Arif arrived in the Netherlands seeking asylum under the Rafief name in 2001 and since became a Dutch national.

He was being tried under “universal jurisdiction” principles, which say suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity can be prosecuted abroad if they cannot be tried in the country where they were allegedly committed, Reuters reported.

According to prosecutors, Arif was responsible for political prisoners in the jail, who were held in inhumane conditions in the facility. Guards under his command beat, tortured and executed prisoners, they said.

During the trial prosecutors cited witnesses who identified “Rafief” as Arif to investigative judges. One victim told judges he still suffered sleepless nights from the psychological torture he underwent in prison.

In the 1980s, Afghanistan’s Soviet-backed government was fighting a guerrilla war against “Mujahideen” Islamist rebels at the time, following the Soviet invasion in 1979.

The Netherlands has previously tried three high ranking officials of the Afghan military intelligence service for similar crimes in the same period in Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan-Uzbekistan railway reconstruction work kicks off

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(Last Updated On: February 22, 2024)

Work gets underway on Hairatan-Mazar section of Balkh to Uzbekistan railway line.

Reconstruction of a section of the Mazar-e-Sharif-Uzbekistan railway line has started at a cost of $6.3 million, Balkh provincial officials said.

Local officials said the 75-km long line will start at Balkh airport and stretch to Uzbekistan.

The reconstruction of this railway line has been contracted to an Uzbek company and is expected to be operational in three months, officials said.

This railway line, which carries freight, links Hairatan land port to Mazar.

“The cost of this contract is approximately six million and 300 thousand US dollars,” said Mohammad Shafiq Mahmood, the head of Balkh railway.

Local authorities have said the reactivation of this line is important for economic growth and the expansion of trade ties.

“We thank our friendly neighbor Uzbekistan for coming here and starting this project,” said Noorul Hadi Abu Idris, the deputy governor of Balkh.

Mazar-e-Sharif-Uzbekistan railway transports commercial goods from the city of Termez in Uzbekistan first to the commercial town of Hairatan and then to the Maulana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi Airport.

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UN reports $402.9 million needed for Herat earthquake recovery support

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(Last Updated On: February 22, 2024)

The United Nations said in a report released Thursday that $402.9 million is needed to support critical recovery and reconstruction efforts in Herat province following last year’s devastating earthquakes.

According to the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report, issued by the UN, the World Bank, the European Union, and the Asian Development Bank, the scale of October’s was staggering.

Housing, the most severely affected sector, represents 41 percent ($164.4 million) of the total recovery needs.

The earthquakes damaged 49,578 houses, with 13,516 being completely destroyed.

Education is second most impacted sector, with 180,000 students and 4,390 teachers currently facing disruptions. The agriculture sector, accounting for the majority of jobs and income in the affected areas, has also suffered considerable setbacks.

The series of earthquakes on October 7, 11, and 15 killed over 1,500 people and injured more than 2,600 people.

The assessment, with UNDP as the technical lead, covered nine districts with roughly 2.2 million people.

It revealed that over 275,000 individuals were affected. Among these were 17,358 pregnant women, 17,146 infants, 3,976 people with severe disabilities, 3,207 elderly families, 6,806 women-led households, 3,176 individuals with chronic illnesses, and 147,000 children under 18.

Herat, Injil, and Zindajan districts were the hardest hit, with rural and vulnerable communities suffering the most.

The assessment also evaluated broader macro-economic and human impacts and proposed principles for a comprehensive recovery and reconstruction framework.

It cautioned about persistent widespread poverty, slow economic recovery, job scarcity, banking sector instability, adverse impact on mental health and wellbeing, and climate vulnerability, exacerbating Afghanistan’s ongoing economic challenges.

Way forward

The PDNA emphasizes the critical need to transition from immediate humanitarian aid to long-term recovery.

Recovery strategies should prioritize building community resilience, service restoration, earthquake-safe housing, livelihood options, social protection, and access to basic services, especially for the most affected families, the report stated.

“As the United Nations and partners, we stand in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan in these challenging times. The findings of the PDNA highlight the profound impacts of the earthquakes on the Herat region.

“We are committed to not only addressing the immediate needs but ensuring a sustainable and resilient recovery for those affected by the earthquakes. This tragedy presents an opportunity to rebuild stronger, more inclusive, and more resilient communities. The PDNA provides a blueprint for recovery and reconstruction aimed at forging a better future for those most affected in Afghanistan,” stated Indrika Ratwatte, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator.

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Two convicts scheduled for public execution in Ghazni province

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(Last Updated On: February 22, 2024)

The Directorate of Information and Culture of the Islamic Emirate in Ghazni province said in a statement that two convicted prisoners have been given the “retribution order” and will be publicly executed.

The announcement states that the two people will be executed at the football stadium of Ali Lala village in Ghazni city at around 09:00 on Thursday morning.

Based on this announcement, these two verdicts will be implemented in Ghazni city after the decision of three courts and approval by the leader of the Islamic Emirate, the statement read.

This directorate has asked the residents of Ghazni to make their way to the stadium and watch the execution.

People have been asked not to bring cameras and mobile phones with them.

The statement did not say how the convicts would be executed nor did they give the gender or other details about the convicts.

The Supreme Court of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan imposed a sentence of ‘divine retribution’ on two convicted murderers in Ghazni province Thursday morning. Both were executed in public.

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