Human Rights Watch demands action against new Afghan defense minister

Assadullah Khalid, Afghan defense minister, speaking to Brig. Gen. Guy Laroche of Canada in Kandahar in 2008. (AP)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Human Rights Watch demands action against new Afghan defense minister

  • Campaigners call for prosecution of Assadullah Khalid for human rights abuses and war crimes

KABUL: Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Saturday for the prosecution of new Afghan defense minister Assadullah Khalid over what it termed grave rights abuses and war crimes.

In a statement, the group said Khalid’s appointment by President Ashraf Ghani last month “should have rung alarm bells not only in Kabul, but in the capitals of Afghanistan’s major donors.”

“Credible evidence of serious human rights abuses and war crimes linked to Khalid have followed him throughout his government career,” HRW said. “Reports first came to light during Khalid’s tenure as governor of Kandahar – a time when thousands of Canadian troops were based in the province.”

Khalid’s office made no immediate comment to the HRW statement. 

Officials with HRW had expressed concern immediately after Khalid’s appointment but Saturday’s statement detailed the alleged abuses.

Khalid, a former spy chief, has also served as governor for Ghazni province and was badly wounded by a Taliban suicide bomber in 2012. He is known to oppose the Taliban and is considered a virulently anti-Pakistan figure. 

He was picked by President Ghani as defense minister last month following a rise in deadly attacks by the Taliban against Afghan troops and after insurgents refused direct talks with the Kabul government to end the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan. 

“An official internal Canadian document described the allegations of human rights abuses attributable to Khalid as numerous and consistent,” the statement said. 

Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin had testified before a Canadian parliamentary commission in 2009 that Khalid perpetrated enforced disappearances and held people in private prisons. 

“The testimony included evidence of Khalid’s personal involvement in the torture of detainees. Chris Alexander, a senior Canadian official working with the United Nations in Afghanistan at the time, alleged that Khalid ordered the killing of five UN workers in a roadside bombing in Kandahar in April 2007.”

The statement further noted that there was also strong evidence directly implicating Khalid in acts of sexual violence against women and girls when he was governor of Ghazni and Kandahar. Khalid allegedly threatened his victims, saying “they would be killed and their families destroyed if they told anyone what had happened.” 

“Ghani’s opportunistic and callous move in appointing Khalid appears aimed to score short-term gains in the upcoming presidential election,” HRW said. 

Ghani’s office did not answer repeated calls seeking comment. 

HRW said the Afghan government had proved unwilling to criminally investigate Khalid, but Afghanistan’s donors could act.

“The US and Canada have authority under their respective Magnitsky laws to impose sanctions on any foreign official against whom there is credible evidence of responsibility for serious human rights abuses,” the statement said. 

“These sanctions include freezing their assets and banning them from entry. The European Union and other donors should impose similar sanctions to send a clear message that returning a known human rights abuser to a position of authority is simply unacceptable.”


World’s 26 richest own same as poorest half of humanity: Oxfam

People are seen in a congress center ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 20, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 5 min 10 sec ago
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World’s 26 richest own same as poorest half of humanity: Oxfam

  • Oxfam warned that governments were exacerbating inequality by increasingly underfunding public services like health care and education at the same time as they consistently under-tax the wealthy

DAVOS, Switzerland: The world’s 26 richest people own the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity, Oxfam said Monday, urging governments to hike taxes on the wealthy to fight soaring inequality.
A new report from the charity, published ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, also found that billionaires around the world saw their combined fortunes grow by $2.5 billion each day in 2018.
The world’s richest man, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, saw his fortune increase to $112 billion last year, Oxfam said, pointing out that just one percent of his wealth was the equivalent to the entire health budget of Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.
The 3.8 billion people at the bottom of the scale meanwhile saw their wealth decline by 11 percent last year, Oxfam said, stressing that the growing gap between rich and poor was undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies and fueling public anger.
“People across the globe are angry and frustrated,” warned Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima in a statement.
The numbers are stark: Between 1980 and 2016, the poorest half of humanity pocketed just 12 cents on each dollar of global income growth, compared with the 27 cents captured by the top one percent, the report found.

Oxfam warned that governments were exacerbating inequality by increasingly underfunding public services like health care and education at the same time as they consistently under-tax the wealthy.
Calls for hiking rates on the wealthy have multiplied amid growing popular outrage in a number of countries over swelling inequality.
In the United States, new congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made headlines earlier this month by proposing to tax the ultra-rich up to 70 percent.
The self-described Democratic Socialist’s proposal came after President Donald Trump’s sweeping tax reforms cut the top rate last year from 39.6 percent to 37 percent.
And in Europe, the “yellow vest” movement that has been rocking France with anti-government protests since November is demanding that President Emmanuel Macron repeal controversial cuts to wealth taxes on high earners.
“The super-rich and corporations are paying lower rates of tax than they have in decades,” the Oxfam report said, pointing out that “the human costs — children without teachers, clinics without medicines — are huge.”
“Piecemeal private services punish poor people and privilege elites,” it said, stressing that every day, some 10,000 people die due to lacking access to affordable health care.
The report, released as the world’s rich, famous and influential began arriving for the plush annual gathering at the luxury Swiss ski resort town, urged governments to “stop the race to the bottom” in taxing rich individuals and big corporations.
Oxfam found that asking the richest to pay just 0.5 percent extra tax on their wealth “could raise more money than it would cost to educate all 262 million children out of school and provide health care that would save the lives of 3.3 million people.”