Dutch court convicts Afghan man of involvement in war crimes

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch court on Thursday imposed a 12-year prison sentence on a 76-year-old Afghan man convicted of involvement in war crimes in a Kabul prison in the 1980s.

The suspect, identified as Abdul Razzaq Rafief, had told a court in The Hague that his prosecution was a case of mistaken identity.

Dutch war crimes prosecutors are convinced they have the right man after interviewing about 25 witnesses around the world and tapping the phones of the suspect and his family before arresting him at his home in the southern Dutch city of Kerkrade in 2019.

A court statement said that between 1983 and 1987 “the man worked in the Pul-e-Charkhi prison where at the time of the civil war many opponents of the regime in Kabul were locked up as political prisoners under appalling conditions.”

Prosecutors said he was commander and head of political affairs from 1983-1990 and kept political prisoners in cramped, filthy cells, where they were routinely tortured.

“He treated the prisoners cruelly and degradingly and robbed them of their freedom at random. These are war crimes: he has acted in violation of international humanitarian law,” the statement said.

At the time, Soviet occupation troops and Afghan government forces were fighting rebels backed by the United States and Pakistan. The Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, but the Afghan government continued the fight until 1992.

The suspect stood trial in the Netherlands, under Dutch law, because he successfully applied for asylum in 2001 — prosecutors say he used a false name when he arrived and was granted Dutch citizenship.

He was charged with being an accessory to inhuman treatment and deprivation of liberty, charges that carried a maximum sentence of 20 years to life.

The trial is not the first time Dutch courts have tackled war crimes committed in Afghanistan.

In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld the torture convictions by lower courts in The Hague of two high-ranking officers in Afghanistan’s military intelligence service.