Security forces fired directly at people without precaution or consideration: Human Rights Commission reports on Behsud incident

8 Subh, Kabul: The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) released its findings from the Behsud incident, in which 11 civilians were killed and 31 wounded in a shooting from security forces, and called for the prosecution of the perpetrators.

According to a report by the AIHRC, in response to protests by about 350 to 400 locals in front of the district office building in the first part of Behsud, security forces “opened direct fire on civilians, killing 11 people and injuring 31.”

The AIHRC said that the participants in the first demonstration were unarmed civilians and that the security forces stationed in the first district of Behsud, without using any riot control measures on the crowd, chose to disperse the angry protesters with direct fire instead. The principles of limitation, necessity, and proportionality were violated. According to the Commission, it would have been possible to prevent this catastrophic event if the proper legal principles and criteria were followed.

The Independent Human Rights Commission sent its staff to investigate in Behsud on January 31, two days after the incident. The report included 13 interviews with locals, demonstrators, the wounded, a member of the National Assembly, and local officials (including the provincial police chief and a doctor).

According to the findings of the Independent Human Rights Commission, a military convoy consisting of the 333rd Division and Maidan Wardak Police under the command of Maidan Wardak Police Chief, Allahdad Fadayi, went to Behsud districts on January 12, to install new commanders. After installing them, they returned to the first area of the district.

The report of the AIHRC states: “People in the region, in meetings with the police chief of Maidan Wardak on January 27 and 28, raised questions and concerns about the extended presence of these forces in the area. On Friday, January 29, at around 9:00 AM, protesters from different areas gathered in front of the district office building in the first part of Behsud district, numbering about 350 to 400.”

The commission further stated that at 11:30 am on the same day, the Maidan Wardak police chief suggested negotiating with 10 representatives of the protesters to reach an agreement. According to the AIHRC, while the delegates were talking to the police chief, protesters outside the district building chanted slogans and moved closer to the district building. Four protesters’ representatives then left the district headquarters to update those present on the talks they had with the police chief, and to invite them to calm down.

The Independent Human Rights Commission said that some protesters responded by saying that the negotiations would not work and that at 3:00 pm on the same day, a number of angry protesters started hurling stones at the district building. One of the protesters, jumped on one of the tanks and tried to fire a machine gun mounted on it, which was targeted and neutralized by the security forces.

According to the report of the Commission, after this protester was killed and the situation became tense, the security forces first fired into the air, but later, without the necessary care and caution, began to directly fire on civilians, killing 11 people and injuring 31 others.

The AIHRC also reported that most of the dead and wounded were transported by ambulance to the Farakhulum Clinic in the Dahatanor area. According to a health official, the first ambulance arrived at 3:30 pm from the scene, half an hour after security forces opened fire on protesters, and transported two of them to the local clinic. According to the report, the ambulance arrived at the scene for the second time at 4:30 PM and was stopped by the security forces for an hour and a half.

A doctor at the Farakhulum Clinic told AIHRC delegates that the bodies and wounded were delayed due to ongoing fighting, insufficient means of transport, and that fact that many of the wounded were in hiding around the area.

Witnesses also said that after the clashes ended, more than 100 protesters were detained by security forces in a hotel room in front of a district office building. The Independent Human Rights Commission said that by the time the delegation arrived, 43 of them were still in the same hotel room, while the rest had been released.

According to the Commission, the survivors had no contact with their families because their phones had been taken. Some of those people were sick and did not have water, food, or a place to sleep. Also, there was no specific evidence against them for their detainment.

After the Commission delegation raised this issue at 4:30 pm on Sunday, January 31, in a telephone call with the commander of the security forces and asked him to take care of the situation, the detainees were released that evening.

The AIHRC has said that detaining unarmed protesters and depriving them of contact with their families is illegal and that authorities should be held accountable. It also stressed that civil movements must abide by the law and adhere to the principle of peaceful demonstration because violent civil protests are illegal and can lead to unrest. The commission welcomed the appointment of a delegation to investigate the matter and announce the results to the Ministry of Interior.

The Interior Ministry, which mere hours after the incident had said that Abdul Ghani Alipor’s irresponsible gunmen had clashed with security forces and fired on people, announced on Monday, February 8, that the protesters were civilians. The ministry called the Behsud residents’ protest a “riot disguised as demonstrations.”

In connection with this issue, and citing the findings of the government’s delegation to Behsud, the Ministry of Interior has suspended Allahdad Fadayi and reported him to the prosecutor’s office.

Finally, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has called on the government to compensate for those affected for the damage done and to ensure that such actions and behaviors are not repeated in the future. It also called on the judiciary to prosecute violators following the principles due legal process.