The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has given the go-ahead to release some 65 suspected members of the Taliban from an Afghanistan prison. On Wednesday night, NATO released a statement against the plans to let the suspects go, saying that they are all directly related to the deaths of more than 50 people, 23 of which were Afghan civilians or security personnel, and 32 of which were members of the US or the coalition.
President Karzai, who was appointed in 2001 after American forces removed the Taliban from power, rationalized his decision by saying that, as there is no solid evidence towards the guilt of any of these men, it is against the law to hold them. Some are voicing agreement with this, however many more believe that it was the wrong move.
Karzai was repeatedly advised against releasing the dangerous criminals by both international powers as well as fellow Afghan politicians. There was even a threat by one lawmaker to cut funding to the developmental programs until after the next election if the men were released.
A review board was appointed to review the cases of the 88 men arrested by US and NATO forces, and it is through them that the decision of who will be arrested and who will be released is to be made. However, due to the current lack of a just cause to hold a trial persecuting the majority of the men, the Afghanistan prison was advised to release the suspected Taliban members, even despite international advice to hold them until investigations were finalized.
Earlier this year, the US made claims that an agreement was being violated by the Afghan government with regards to how these prisoners were being handled. The men were arrested under suspicion of Taliban activity, and thus they were transferred to a detention facility in order to be held indefinitely until they could face trial in a formal court of law. Instead, they were processed by the review board, and now that the majority of the men have been released, there is fear that the Afghan people and American presence may be in danger.
On the other hand, President Karzai insists that his decision was made with respect to Afghan law, stating that detaining these individuals indefinitely, even in the face of the possible threat they may pose, is unlawful in itself. According to Abdul Shokoor Dardas, one of the review board’s senior members, the cases were thoroughly studied and the decision was made based on a clear lack of evidence. The US disagrees, claiming that evidence against all the 88 captured suspects was given back when they were captured.
The detention center in question is the Parwan Detention Facility. The US forces transferred control of the facility to the Afghan government last year after heavy negotiations. Previously, under American control, the prison was called Bargam and housed some 3,000 detained Taliban suspects. After taking control of the facility, the Afghan government released 560 of those suspects without trial, and some of them returned to fight for the Taliban.
The daughter of one vice presidential candidate wrote in a post on Twitter, stating that members of the Taliban who are released from prison will always continue to fight. Many find it hard to believe that the Afghanistan government, who have been entrusted by American forces to handle the Taliban suspects in the Parwan prison lawfully, would so readily disregard international counsel and put their citizens in danger.
By Robin Syrenne