On Tuesday condemnations poured in from prominent Afghan politicians, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), human rights organizations and a number of foreign diplomatic missions who described the detention and “forced confessions” of two Logar activists by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) ‘shameful,” and unacceptable.
Following the outcry, the NDS on Wednesday handed over the two civil society activists, Musa Mahmoudi and Ehsanullah Hamidi, to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
Mahmoudi and Hamidi, who reported widespread allegations of sex abuse of boys in Logar province earlier in November, were detained by the NDS last week but released today after condemnation by Amnesty International, AIHRC, the UN as well as the US, UK, German, and Dutch embassies.
The NDS originally declined to confirm or deny reports that they held the activists, but on Tuesday the agency stated that they had taken the activists into custody to “protect” them from death threats, and the agency released a video of Musa Mahmoudi saying that his research on sex abuse (of students in Logar) was “incomplete” and “incorrect” and it was “exaggerated” by the media and he "apologizes to the people."
Among the critics was the US Ambassador to Afghan John Bass who in a twitter post described the move as ‘Soviet-style tactics’ and said that he was deeply disturbed by the “appalling” action to coerce confessions from civil society activists.
“Deeply disturbed by these Soviet-style tactics of the NDS Afghanistan. It's appalling to coerce confessions from civil society activists whose goal is to protect Afghan children.” Bass tweeted.
Peter Prügel, the German ambassador in Kabul, also condemned the action and described it as “shameful.” Retweeting a message by John Bass, Prugel wrote:
“Fully agree! This is just shameful and embarrassing and profoundly disturbs my perception of a professional NDS.”
The British embassy in Kabul praised the work of the civil society activists and said that they should raise their voice without concerns.
“We welcome President Ghani’s commitment to a full and independent investigation into the handling of allegations of child sexual abuse in Logar. We commend the vital work of Human Rights Defenders and CSOs who must be allowed to raise concerns without fear of retribution. It is vital that the rule of law is respected, due process followed, and that the promised investigation is thorough, transparent and credible. The UK continues to support the reform of Afghanistan’s education system, this is a critical investment for the future of the country. The rights of Afghanistan's children who have been disproportionately affected by the conflict are our primary concern,” the British Embassy in Kabul tweeted.
Meanwhile, a number of military analysts have said that Afghanistan’s security institutions, particularly the NDS, should try to win the support of human rights organizations.
“Intelligence agencies should achieve the support of civil society activists,” said military analyst Abdul Wahid Taqat.
UNAMA called on Afghanistan’s Attorney General to investigate reports of sexual abuse of children in Logar province.
“UNAMA supports call for an investigation by Attorney General's Office into allegations of sexual abuse against children in Logar and urges immediate release of the human rights defenders from NDS detention,” UNAMA tweeted, prior to the two men’s release.
In addition, former NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil blamed the Presidential Palace for the detention of the activists.
“With full responsibility I can say that, without instruction from the Presidential Palace, NDS will not take such a decision by their own.” Nabil wrote in a Twitter post.
Amid mounting criticism, the Presidential Palace later said in a statement that the investigation was the task of the Attorney General, not the NDS.
“Cases as such must be dealt and investigated by the attorney general’s office and the AIHRC. I have also instructed the Ministry of Education to provide a thorough report from the areas of Logar where the alleged abuse took place. I expect the report sent to me ASAP,” President Ashraf Ghani tweeted on Tuesday.
But earlier, without disclosing a name, Ghani said that ‘some individuals,’ by making such allegations, are seeking asylum abroad.