Afghanistan: Prosecute those responsible for the rape and murder of 16-year-old Shakila Bakhsh
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On 31 January 2012, 16-year-old Shakila Bakhsh was raped and murdered in central Bamyan; nearly two years later, no one has been held accountable. According to Bamyan Province Court of Appeal documents seen by Equality Now, Shakila was found dead at the home of Bamyan Provincial Council member, Mr. Mohammad Hadi Wahidi Bihishti, where she had been helping her elder sister who was employed as a housekeeper. At the time of the incident Mr. Bihishti was home along with his wife and nephew. Initially Mr. Bihishti’s bodyguard, Shakila’s brother-in-law Mr. Qurban, was charged with her murder despite eye witness statements placing him elsewhere at the time. Mr. Qurban claimed he was informed about Shakila’s death in a phone call made to him by Mr. Bihishti who told him that Shakila had killed herself. Family members of Shakila and Mr. Qurban maintain that Mr. Bihishti is responsible for killing Shakila, but they believe the case is not being fully investigated due to his influential position in the Bamyan Provincial Council. On 21 May 2012, the Court of Appeal concluded that there was insufficient evidence against Mr. Qurban and ordered a new investigation.
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Court documents state that neither the security forces nor the police were immediately informed of Shakila’s death; instead her body was taken to the hospital. It was police, who happened to be present at the hospital at the time, who sent a team to investigate. The documents state that attempts were made to remove evidence at the crime scene, and highlight numerous failings in the police investigation, including the fact that the police neglected to send the fingerprints of Mr. Bihishti, his wife and nephew for forensic examination. To date, no one has been successfully prosecuted for Shakila’s rape and murder.
Lack of law enforcement, particularly when the accused are people of influence, has been highlighted as a significant problem in Afghanistan. For example, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)’s December 2012 report, noted that when it comes to cases involving violence against women there are “prolonged delays in processing cases - frequently with disappearance of key documents and of evidence during the course of protracted proceedings.” The report also highlights weak investigations and inconsistent approaches towards influential and high profile suspects.
Violence against women and girls remains endemic in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission recorded 4,010 cases of violence against women from 21 March to 21 October 2012 throughout Afghanistan compared to 2,299 cases it recorded for the entire year in 2011, however overall reporting of such cases remains low. The report also found that rather than following required legal procedures in all cases, the Afghan National Police and prosecutor’s offices continued to refer numerous cases including serious crimes to local councils, or shuras, for advice or resolution which often undermined implementation of the law and reinforced harmful practices.
Afghanistan is party to a number of international treaties including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which states that “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law” (Article 26). Article 22 of Afghanistan’s Constitution states that “Any kind of discrimination and distinction between citizens of Afghanistan shall be forbidden. The citizens of Afghanistan, man and woman, have equal rights and duties before the law.”
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- Call on the officials below to ensure that a full and fair investigation is undertaken into the death of Shakila Bakhsh and that the perpetrator/s of her rape and murder are prosecuted without delay.
- Urge the government of Afghanistan, in accordance with Afghanistan’s own Constitution and its international legal obligations, to ensure that robust systems are put in place to prevent all violence against women and girls and to guarantee that the rule of law prevails in protection of the rights of women and girls.
Letters should go to:
Minister of Interior Affairs Mr. Umar Daudzai
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ministry of Interior Affairs
Tel: +93 202 102 945 +93 202 102 945 +93 202 201 785 +93 202 201 785
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Minister of Justice Mr. Habibullah Ghalib
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ministry of Justice
Tel: +93 202 104 336
With copy to: President Karzai, Presidential Palace, Kabul, Afghanistan Tel: +93 (20) 210 2853, +93 (20) 210 3705, +93 (20) 210 3705 Email: email@example.com
Dear Minister of Interior Affairs/ Minister of Justice:
I am deeply concerned about the rape and murder of 16-year-old Shakila Bakhsh, daughter of Mohammad Bakhsh, in Zargaran, in central Bamyan on 31 January 2012, and the lack of a prosecution in her case.
According to the Bamyan Province Court of Appeal (case number 40, May 21, 2012) documents, Shakila was found dead at the home of Mr. Mohammad Hadi Wahidi Bihishti, a member of Bamyan Provincial Council. At the time of the incident Mr. Bihishti was home with his wife and nephew. Initially Mr. Bihishti’s bodyguard, Mr. Qurban, who is also Shakila’s brother-in-law, was charged with her murder despite eye witness statements which placed him at a local bazaar at the time. Mr. Qurban claimed he was informed about Shakila’s death through a phone call made to him by Mr. Bihishti who told him that Shakila had killed herself.
Court documents state that security forces and the police were not informed by Mr. Bishishti or anyone else about what had happened. Instead, the deceased’s body was taken to hospital. The documents also state that there was an attempt to remove signs of the murder at the house. When police present at the hospital happened to find out about the incident they sent a team to investigate. However, the court documents also highlight a number of failings in the police investigation including the fact that the police neglected to send fingerprints of Mr. Bihishti, his wife or nephew to forensics to be examined. Reportedly family members of Shakila and Mr. Qurban maintain that Mr. Bihishti is responsible for killing Shakila, but due to his influential position in the Bamyan Provincial Council he is not being fully investigated. On 21 May 2012, the Court of Appeal concluded that there was insufficient evidence against Mr. Qurban and ordered a new investigation.
I urge you to please ensure that the case is fully and fairly investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted. I would respectfully urge the government of Afghanistan to ensure the rule of law prevails and that violence against women and girls is prevented and punished to the full extent of the law in accordance with Afghanistan’s own Constitution and international legal obligations.
Thank you for your attention.