Taliban Official: Executions Will Soon Return to Afghanistan

The Taliban has vowed to restore the death penalty and execute Afghans who work for foreign forces, following a nine-month moratorium on executions in Afghanistan.

“If the people support us, we will implement Sharia-Islamic rules not only in courts but in all areas of government,” an unidentified Taliban spokesman said on Thursday.

The Taliban stopped executing Afghans sentenced to death when it ruled Afghanistan before its 2001 overthrow, but has since banned courts from handing down the punishment.

It was not clear exactly how many Afghans were on death row at the time, though more than 8,000 are in jail following convictions for crimes under Afghan laws still in effect today.

The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), quoting Taliban officials on Saturday, reported that the Taliban will now resume carrying out death sentences.

“The Taliban has already announced that they are resuming executions, but it is not clear whether they have done so yet,” Mohammad Ismail Hotak, a member of the High Council of the Judiciary in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, told Newsweek. “It is impossible to carry out executions when the Taliban are not in control of any prison. They will have to ask for help from other groups, which they may find difficult.”

The move is likely to further alarm rights groups that accuse the Taliban of routinely subjecting Afghan citizens who work with international forces or organizations to torture and abuse, including forcible disappearances, arbitrary detention without charge, and harsh interrogations.

According to Human Rights Watch’s 2014 World Report, the Taliban reportedly seized at least 30 men who were working for aid organizations, government institutions, or international forces in Afghanistan in 2013 alone.

Many others have been forced to spy on colleagues or give information on aid workers’ movements under threat of violence against themselves or their family members. The report documents cases of Taliban militants assaulting aid workers, including one demining worker who was abducted and beaten after being accused of spying for the U.S.

Last year, Rights group Amnesty International raised alarm over a sharp rise in executions, kidnapping, and violence against Afghans associated with government officials or international organizations by Taliban insurgents and other militants.

“Afghan civilians have suffered horrific abuses at the hands of Taliban fighters, including killings, abductions and forced marriages,” said Horia Mosadiq, Afghanistan Researcher at Amnesty International.