Conflict & Justice

Afghanistan: Secret report names top officials in human rights abuses


Human remains inside a mass grave in the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif on January 4. 2012. A mass grave containing twenty bodies had been discovered in an underground prison in northern Afghanistan.


Qais Usyan

It’s a secret, you’re not supposed to read it, and it’s titled "Conflict Mapping in Afghanistan Since 1978." 

The seemingly anodyne title conceals the gruesome and seditious details of this exhaustive 800-page report.

Documenting atrocities in Afghanistan from the Soviet era to America’s 2001 invasion, the report reveals “the locations and details of 180 mass graves of civilians or prisoners, …compiles testimony from survivors and witnesses to the mass interments, and details other war crimes as well,” according to Rod Nordland of the New York Times, who broke the story on Sunday.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzi commissioned the report in 2005, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission prepared it, and now senior Afghan officials are suppressing it, the New York Times reported.

It seems nondisclosure is less an attempt to obfuscate human rights abuses, and more a blatant maneuver to protect the high profile individuals whose names reportedly appear in the report, and therefore avoid any civil conflict that would inevitably result from the report's disclosure.

The New York Times graciously supplied a few names.

• First Vice President Fahim of the Jamiat Islami Party
• Second Vice President Karim Khalili, a Hazara leader from the Wahdat Party
• Gen. Atta Mohammed, governor of Balkh
• Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, chief of staff to the supreme commander of the Afghan Armed Forces

Correction: The original version of this article said Thomas Ruttig and Sari Kuovo of the Afghanistan Analysts Network leaked the report. That was incorrect. On 08/10/2010, Thomas Ruttig linked to a leaked version of a UNHCHR report in a blog post, seen here.