Dutch Court Sentences Afghan Commander To 12 Years In Prison For War Crimes

A court in the Netherlands found an Afghan former commander guilty of crimes against humanity, handing him 12 years in prison.  

Dutch judges found that Abdul Razzaq Rafief, 76, commanded and oversaw the torture of prisoners at the notorious Kabul’s Pul-e-Charkhi jail between 1983-88 where he had effective command and control.

Judge Els Kole told The Hague Regional Court that Rafief was involved in torturing thousands of prisoners in the harshest way during civil war where many opponents of the regime in Kabul were locked up as political prison in the jail.

According to Kole, Rafief was head of the prison during a period when Afghanistan’s communist regime was fighting a Soviet-backed war against Mujahideen resistance fighters.

Kole said that Rafief was involved in the violence and was giving orders and knew what was happening in the prison. “Rafief did not stop his subordinates from abusing inmates,” the judge added.

Kole furthered that the prisoners were held in three blocks at the jail, with the worst being reserved for political detainees and those with death sentences.

Some of the prisoners were executed without trial and those who were brought before a judge only received a hearing “for show,” Kole added.

Dutch authorities started investigating in 2012 after news outlets revealed the former commander of Pul-e-Charkhi prison was living in the Netherlands, where he was arrested in 2019.

Rafief, who came to the Netherlands as a refugee in 2001, had told the court that his trial was a case of mistaken identity, however judges ruled that an Afghan driver’s license, confiscated during his arrest showed that he was indeed the correct person.

Rafief was also positively identified by many of the 19 witnesses in the trial.

The sentencing in The Hague is one of the latest in a series of efforts by Europeans to bring people to account for crimes in conflict-torn nations, including Afghanistan.

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