Under Taliban, eye-for-an-eye sharia justice returns to Afghan courts

GHAZNI: Kneeling before a judge wrapped in a turban in a small room at the Ghazni Court of Appeals in eastern Afghanistan, an old man sentenced to death for murder begs for his life.
The 75-year-old admitted to shooting dead a relative – in revenge, he said, because of rumors that he had sex with his daughter-in-law.
Under the Sharia law eye-to-eye punishment, officially ordered by TalibanFor the first time as his supreme leader last month, he faces the death penalty in public — with a sentence that will be carried out by the victim’s relatives.
“We made peace between the families,” the old man begged.
“I have witnesses who can prove that we agreed on compensation.”
AFP has rarely had the opportunity to approach a Ghazni court to see how justice under Islamic Sharia law has been enforced since the Taliban returned to power last August.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent building a new justice system after the Taliban were ousted in 2001 – a combination of Islamic and secular law, with prosecutors, defense lawyers and qualified judges.
More women have been recruited into the system, overseeing cases involving tough Taliban fighters as well as bringing more gender balance to family courts.
All that has been removed by the Taliban, with trials, sentences and punishments now overseen by all-male clerics.
Islamic law, or sharia, acts as a code of living for Muslims worldwide, offering guidance on matters such as modesty, finance, and crime. However, interpretations vary according to local customs, cultures, and schools of religious thought.
Taliban scholars in Afghanistan have used one of the most extreme interpretations of the code, including capital and corporal punishment rarely used by most modern Muslim countries.
Mohiuddin Umari, head of the Ghazni court, said the difference between the old government’s system and today’s is “as great as heaven and earth”.
Officials in Ghazni did not use a formal Western-style courtroom but instead, proceedings took place in a small adjoining room, with participants seated on carpeted floors.
The narrow room, warmed by an old wood stove, had a bunk bed in one corner, on which lay religious books and a Kalashnikov rifle.
Young Judge Mohamad MobinListen calmly before asking a few questions.
He then asked for another hearing in a few days – giving the old man time to gather witnesses who could testify that the families agreed with what he said.
“If he proves his claim, then the sentence can be amended,” Mobin said.
Otherwise, “surely that the qisas (tit-for-tat) stated in the sharia law will apply”.
Mobin, surrounded by thin, handwritten folders tied together with string, has been at the appeals court since the Taliban’s return in August 2021.
He said that about a dozen death sentences have been handed down in Ghazni province since then, but none have been carried out – partly because of the appeals process.
“It is very difficult to make such a decision and we are very careful,” the 34-year-old told AFP.
“But if we have solid evidence, then God will guide us and tell us not to sympathize with these people.”
If the old man’s appeal is unsuccessful, the case will be referred to the Supreme Court in Kabul, and ultimately to the supreme leader. Hibatullah Akhundzadawho confirms all capital sentences.
Such was the case earlier this month in the western city of Farah when the Taliban carried out their first public execution since returning to power – an act condemned by human rights groups as well as foreign organizations and governments. beyond widespread condemnation.
The head of the court Ghazni Umari insisted the sharia system was much better than the one it replaced, even acknowledging that officials needed more experience.
NGO Transparency International ranks Afghanistan 177th out of 180 most corrupt countries in 2021, and its courts are notorious for bribery, with cases dragging on for many years. five.
“The emirate is showing transparency,” said Umari, using the Taliban’s name for Afghanistan.
Many Afghans say they prefer a chance in the sharia courts with civil cases, arguing that they are less affected by the corruption that has plagued the system under the previously Western-backed government.
However, jurists say criminal cases are easier to dismiss under the new system.
“Some cases, if decided quickly, it would be better,” said a currently unemployed prosecutor, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.
“But in most cases, speed leads to hasty decisions.”
Umari insists all rulings are scrutinized, adding that “if a judge makes a mistake, we will investigate”.
But an elderly Ghazni man sentenced to death said he did not have a lawyer and his appeal lasted less than 15 minutes.
“The court should not have sentenced me to death,” he said.
“I’ve been in prison for more than eight months. They (family) have agreed to spare me,” he added, tightening prayer beads on his cuffed hands.


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