UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon: Appoint a Commission to Investigate the 23 July Attack on the Peaceful Rally of the Enlightening Movement in Kabul

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We, the signatories of this petition, request Your Excellency to launch an independent international investigation into the attacks against a peaceful rally by members of Hazara ethnic minority that took place in Kabul on Saturday, 23 July 2016. The suicide attacks killed more than 100 and injured around 300 civilians.

The rally was part of a broader nation-wide anti-discrimination protest, that later became popularly known as the Enlightening Movement. The protest was sparked by a recent Government decision to exclude Hazara-populated areas of the country from the National Power (electricity) Plan, which had been prepared by a German consulting company and approved by the Cabinet during previous administration. Members of Hazara community, supported by civil society and rights activists from across the country, protested against the unjustifiable change of plan and found it as a blatant discrimination by the authoritarian decision-making circle in the current Government.

Following the attack, Government formed an investigation commission. We, the signatories of this petition, believe that the government-appointed commission lacks credibility and political will to conduct a proper investigation into the terrorist attack. Since its announcement on 24th July, three members of the commission have resigned. We firmly believe that the Government is a party to the dispute over the issue and, hence, cannot be trusted to carry out an impartial investigation.

More specifically, a thorough and impartial investigation by the United Nations is necessitated for the following reasons:

  • Victims and their families, most of whom were university students, lecturers, civil society activists as well as ordinary citizens, have a right to truth and justice. They need to know why, and how, their loved ones who were merely exercising their right to peaceful assembly lost their lives, who committed the heinous crime and who are their accomplices? They demand that the perpetrators and their accomplices be brought to justice and appropriate remedies and reparations be provided to the victims.
  • The attack targeted members of a minority group who were protesting peacefully against discriminatory policies of the Government. Their protest, which turned into a national movement, was echoed by peaceful rallies all over the country as well as in the capitals of many donor countries. The aim of the protests has been to expose Afghan Government’s discriminatory and corrupt practices in spending international assistance and domestic revenues.
  • The rally was authorized by authorities and all information regarding its routes and programs were shared with security agencies in advance. Nonetheless as witnessed during the rally, security apparatus failed to provide adequate protection for the rally and instead barricaded themselves behind concrete walls and containers. The limited number of police force present in the venue abandoned their positions and let pushcarts into the crowd, two of which were allegedly used by suicide bombers.
  • Government had blocked all media from covering the protest and no TV camera or journalist was allowed into venue for coverage of the event.
  • No emergency preparations were in place. Ambulances, mostly of private clinics, arrived in the scene around 50 minutes after the blast. Many victims died of bleeding and lack of emergency services. Many others died because Government had barricaded the roads with containers and ambulances could not pass through the fastest road.
  • Testimonies by eyewitnesses and survivors suggest that the blasts were followed by indiscriminate firing on the crowd, allegedly by members of security forces. Many victims had bullet holes in their bodies.

Given the above, there is sufficient reason to believe that Government is partly if not wholly responsible for the loss of lives and the sufferings of those injured in the attack. Therefore, only an impartial and independent investigation by United Nations could reveal the truth and pave the way for justice and accountability and healing.

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