Afghan vice-president accused of abducting, torturing rival

Abdul Rashid

Abdul Rashid

Afghanistan’s First Vice-President Abdul Rashid Dostum denied on Tuesday accusations that he had ordered a political rival to be abducted, beaten and sexually abused in a case that sparked Western calls for a full and fair investigation.

Dostum, a former warlord with a history of accusations of human rights abuses, was witnessed by hundreds of people, according to The New York Times, beating and then ordering his men to detain Ahmad Ishchi at a public sporting event in late November.

“I can kill you right now, and no one will ask,” Ishchi said Dostum told him.

Ishchi told the US daily he was bound and driven to Dostum’s home, where he suffered intense abuse, including repeated beatings and being raped with the barrel of a Kalashnikov rifle.

His account could not be independently verified, and Dostum, who was Afghanistan’s acting president at the time because President Ashraf Ghani was out of the country, has denied the accusation.

“He (Ishchi) was detained by Afghan security forces for allegations of funding the opposition and having a hand in repeated security issues,” a spokesperson for Dostum said in a statement, denying any physical or sexual abuse had taken place.

“For some time there has been a destructive movement by some unknown circles against the First Vice-President,” it added.

‘Nobody is above the law’

President Ghani’s office promised a thorough investigation into Ishchi’s accusations.

“For the Afghan government nobody is above the law. Rule of law and accountability begins in the government itself and we are committed to it,” said presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansori.

Western embassies in Kabul expressed concern over the accusations.

“The unlawful detention and reported mistreatment of Mr Ishchi by the First Vice-President raises serious concerns,” the US Embassy said in a statement.

“We would welcome the Afghan government’s move to swiftly investigate these allegations,” the embassy added, in a call echoed by the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway.

Dostum joined Afghanistan’s National Unity Government in 2014 in a bid by Ghani to attract the support of his mostly ethnic Uzbek constituency, but has been dogged by accusations of past human rights violations.

Warring factions brought bloody chaos to Afghanistan after they forced the withdrawal of Soviet occupying forces in 1989.

In the 1990s, many Afghans initially welcomed the rise of the Taliban who defeated and largely banished the “warlord” factions.

But some old faction commanders have made a comeback to positions of influence since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, to the dismay of many ordinary Afghans.