Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Justice for torture

Faryadi Sarwar Zardad, a former Afghan warlord, has been convicted on charges of conspiring to take hostages and conspiracy to torture in a British court. Zardad was a mujahadeen leader who spent years fighting against the Russians. After the Russian withdrawl, during the civil war against the Taleban, he controlled one of the roads into Kabul. He and his men behaved like vicious bandits, terrorising the civilian population and robbing, killing, imprisoning and torturing travellers.

The charges were brought under laws implementing the UN Convention Against Torture. While the Convention only demands criminalising torture in a party's jurisdiction and allowing extradition, the UK seems to have gone the whole way and claimed extra-territorial jurisdiction, allowing it to prosecute for offences anywhere in the world. Witnesses gave evidence by video from the British embassy in Kabul. It is believed to be the first trial of its kind anywhere in the world, but it sets another excellent precedent: torturers who flee to the west will be found and punished, no matter where they committed their crimes.

Hopefully, there's a few torturers right now who are feeling a little bit nervous...