Afghan VP faces probe over claims of sex as­sault, tor­ture

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KABUL: Afghanistan has launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions that the coun­try’s vice pres­i­dent sex­u­ally as­saulted a ri­val, in the face of mount­ing crit­i­cism from West­ern al­lies and ac­tivists over a per­va­sive cul­ture of im­punity.

Ab­dul Rashid Dos­tum, a for­mer war­lord who has a cat­a­logue of war crimes at­tached to his name, is ac­cused of ab­duct­ing Ah­mad Ishchi last month dur­ing a tra­di­tional game of Buzkashi, or polo with an an­i­mal car­cass, in north­ern Jowz­jan prov­ince. Dos­tum al­legedly kept Ishchi hostage in his pri­vate com­pound for five days, where he was said to be tor­tured and sodom­ized. “The at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice has be­gun its im­par­tial and trans­par­ent in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­gard­ing the in­ci­dent,” Afghanistan’s top pros­e­cu­tor said in a state­ment late Satur­day.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion will be car­ried out neu­trally and in­de­pen­dently.”

Of­fi­cials are scram­bling to gather ev­i­dence af­ter the United States, Euro­pean Union, Aus­tralia and Canada on Tues­day joined the cho­rus of calls for a thor­ough probe. Ishchi has un­der­gone a med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion since his re­lease ear­lier this month at the Amer­i­can air base in Ba­gram, north of Kabul, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

Dos­tum has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions, but his of­fice said he would co­op­er­ate with any in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It added, how­ever, that it prefers to “re­solve” the mat­ter by the tra­di­tional me­di­a­tion of tribal el­ders rather than through con­ven­tional courts. Ob­servers are skep­ti­cal the gov­ern­ment will sack or bring charges against Dos­tum, who has sur­vived all pre­vi­ous al­le­ga­tions of abuse. “He is too pow­er­ful to be sacked or tried in court,” said Kabul-based an­a­lyst Ah­mad Saeedi told AFP. “The pres­i­dent is un­der pres­sure to take ac­tion, but he (Dos­tum) has a lot of sup­port and in­flu­ence, which the gov­ern­ment can­not take lightly.” De­spite his hu­man rights record, Dos­tum was in­vited to join the Na­tional Unity Gov­ern­ment in 2014 in a bid by Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani to at­tract the sup­port of his mostly eth­nic Uzbek con­stituency.

The lat­est con­tro­versy has once again drawn at­ten­tion to how Afghan war­lords and strong­men op­er­ate with im­punity, hob­bling West­ern-backed ef­forts to re­store peace and re­build the na­tion af­ter decades of con­flict.

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