24 Jul 2017
Writer: Mohammad Reza Gulkohi

All must be equal before law

General Abdul Rashid Dostum, first vice president, has been out of Afghanistan for many months. It is reported that he is in Turkey for medical treatment. His guards were summoned by the Attorney General Office (AG Office) in a case of abduction and sexual molestation filed by Ahmad Eschi, former deputy governor of Dostum's home province.

Eschi has accused General Dostum of assaulting him while he was forcibly kept in the latter's residence for five days in late November 2016. The first vice president has denied the accusation.

The investigation was ordered by the president's office. Najibullah Azad, deputy spokesperson to the president, says, "If he is found guilty the decision to punish him is with the judiciary. If he is found innocent he will continue as first vice president."

Aref Akbar, a civil society activist, in Kabul thinks the law must apply to everyone, whether high-ranking official or ordinary person. "It makes no difference who is accused. Justice should be even-handed," he adds.

Bashir Ahmad Tayenj, the spokesperson of Dostum's National Islamic Movement, says the justice system should not proceed in the complaints against the first vice president as the charges are "baseless". He has called for his leader's immunity from prosecution.

General Dostum has hardly attended office since Ahmad Eshchi accused him of ordering his guards to sexually assault him. Legal experts think the complaint should be probed in a special court considering Dostum's political clout. Sharif Danesh, a legal expert, believes, "Investigations of crimes reportedly committed by high-ranking individuals like the president and his deputies should be heard in a special court by a specially appointed judge."

Special trial
Abdul Wahid Farzayee, a member of a lawyers' union, feels General Dostum cannot under any circumstances be tried in anything but a special court. "Considering that articles 60, 67, 68 and 69 of the Constitution on the election of the vice president as part of the team of the president rules that he is the successor in case of dismissal, resignation, absence and death of the president; considering this reality the first vice president (Dostum) cannot be tried in ordinary court whatever the nature of the accusation."

Farzayee who was once legal advisor to the president's office, thinks that the government should first interpret article 69. According to Abdul Ali Mohammadi, another lawyer, the article is "vague" about taking a first vice president to court. "The verdict under law is not clear regarding the vice president – how the investigation should take place," he explains. "But we can use different articles of the Constitution and rule of law and say the ordinary courts do not have the right to investigate the accusations set against the vice president. Article 69 defines a special trend of investigation for a president."
Article 69 states the president is responsible to the nation and parliament. Prosecution of the president on charges of perpetration of human rights crimes, sedition and other crimes can be sought by one third of the members of parliament. Should this request be confirmed by two thirds of the members, Parliament can hold a Loya Jerga (grand assembly) within one month.

Calls for justice both here and from abroad have been raised against the backdrop of increased interference from numerous "internal factions and institutions" that have made the charges against Dostum of a "sensitive" nature. Meanwhile, a new political coalition has recently emerged with the establishment of the Salvation of Afghanistan in Turkey. The key members are three "dissatisfied personalities" – General Dostum, Ata Mohammad Noor and Mohammad Mohaqeq.


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