The US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass, followed by envoys from other nations including Germany and the Netherlands, on Tuesday night strongly reacted to the arrest of Afghan activists who exposed reports of alleged sexual abuse of children and youth in multiple schools in Logar province.
Their reactions came minutes after President Ashraf Ghani stated he “disagrees with the intelligence agencies’ approach and instructed the NDS to immediately hand over the protection of the activists to the Ministry of Interior Affairs.”
“When I was briefed today (Tuesday) about the development on the case I immediately instructed NDS to stop the proceedings. The protection of civil society and human rights defenders is the sole responsibility of the security forces,” Ghani said.
Also on Tuesday night, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah’s office in a statement condemned the arrest of Afghan activists for exposing reports on Logar sex abuse allegations and said the issue will be closely followed with security agencies to prevent the repeat of such detention.
The two men detained by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) are civil society members from Logar who exposed allegations of mass sexual abuse of children and youth in Logar province, and whose findings were further reported on by the UK’s Guardian and other international and Afghan news agencies.
The Guardian article, which was published on November 13, quoted Musa Mahmoudi, head of Logar’s civil society, and reported that “over 500” children and youth had been sexually abused in “six schools” in Logar.
In a subsequent interview with TOLOnews, Mahmoudi claimed that “390” children and youth had been abused, and 65 percent of the abuse had occurred at school--the remaining 35 percent of reported abuse occurred outside of school.
Mahmoudi and fellow civil society member Ehsanullah Hamidind were later taken into custody by the National Directorate Service (NDS), a move that was condemned by Amnesty International and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. Former president Hamid Karzai also spoke out against Mahmoudi’s detainment.
On Tuesday, Amnesty International tweeted a screenshot of “last messages” received from Musa Mahmoudi “before he was detained by NDS.” The messages said “NDS is trying to arrest me…and blame me for everything.”
The NDS originally declined to confirm or deny reports that they held the activists, but on Tuesday the NDS 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 for this.
In response, US Ambassador John Bass tweeted that such “Soviet-style” tactics of coercing confessions was “appalling.”
Bass, in a tweet said he “fully supports” the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission’s view on “these forced detentions,” referring to AIHRC’s earlier calls for the release of the two Afghan activists.
The Netherlands Embassy in Kabul in a tweet said the mission “is very much concerned about the illegal detention of human rights defenders Mahmoudi and Hamidi.
“We urge the immediate release of these human rights defenders from NDS detention,” the embassy said.
Peter Prügel, the German ambassador to Afghanistan, tweeted: “Seriously concerned about the illegal detention of human rights defenders Mahmudi and Hamidi," and "NDS's interference in this case of alleged child abuse is unacceptable! Allegations of most serious human rights violations need to be thoroughly investigated, not silenced!"