Sentence to death of Mr. Pervez Kambaksh- AFG 001 / 0208 / OBS 023

20/02/2008
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentence to death of Mr. Pervez Kambaksh, a 23 year-old reporter for the newspaper Jahan-e Naw (“The New World”) and journalism student at Balkh University, after he distributed a document criticising the Koran and its views on women’s rights to his journalism class.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Afghanistan.

Brief description of the situation:

According to the information received, on October 27, 2007, Mr. Kambaksh was arrested for reportedly downloading and distributing among fellow students a controversial article commenting on Koranic verses about women’s rights. He was subsequently detained in Mazar-i-Sharif, awaiting trial.

On January 22, 2008, Mr. Kambaksh was sentenced to death for blasphemy by a court of Mazar-i-Sharif. The trial was held behind closed doors, without any lawyer defending him. Mr. Kambaksh appealed the ruling but will remain in custody in the course of the proceedings. If the verdict is upheld by Afghanistan’s both Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, a decision of the Afghan President to pardon him will be the only way for him to escape capital punishment.

The Observatory was further informed that on January 30, 2008, the President of the Afghan Senate issued a statement supporting the sentence to death, which was challenged by another statement of a group of Afghan senators.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern regarding Mr. Kambaksh’s sentencing to death, as it appears to be directly aimed at sanctioning his activities in favour of human rights, and therefore directly violates the Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 15, 2007 and which applies to all UN member-States [1]. The Observatory also considers that the deprivation of Mr. Kambaksh’s liberty results from the exercise of the rights or freedoms guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and is therefore arbitrary.

The Observatory further denounces his detention conditions, as he would reportedly share a cell meant for four detainees with thirty other prison inmates in a prison of Balkh province.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Afghan authorities and ask them to:

i.Take all necessary measures to guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Pervez Kambaksh;

ii.Release him immediately and unconditionally since his detention is arbitrary as it seems to directly aim at sanctioning his human rights activities;

iii.Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Kambaksh as well as against all human rights defenders in Afghanistan;

iv.Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, Article 6.b, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others [...] freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms”, and Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v.More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Afghanistan.

Addresses:

His Excellency Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, Presidential Palace, Kabul, Afghanistan, Email: president@afghanistangov.org
Mr. Abdul Jabar Sabit, Attorney General of Afghanistan
Mr. Sarwar Danish, Minister of Justice of Afghanistan
The Supreme Court of Afghanistan, aquddus@supremecourt.gov.af

As it might be very difficult to send letters and emails to Afghanistan, kindly send your reactions to the following diplomatic representations of Afghanistan, as well as to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Afghanistan in your respective countries.

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations in Geneva, 63 rue de Lausanne, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 731 45 10. Email: mission.afghanistan@bluewin.ch
Diplomatic Representation of Afghanistan to the European Union in Brussels, 61 avenue de Wolvendael, 1180 Uccle, Belgium. Fax: + 32 2 761 31 67. Email: ambassade.afghanistan@skynet.be

***
Paris - Geneva, February 20, 2008

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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