Prison chief sentenced for war crimes at Afghan jail

Judge says Abdul Razzaq Rafief 'treated the prisoners cruelly'

The Pul-e-Charkhi prison building in Kabul, Afghanistan. Reuters

A Dutch court has sentenced an elderly Afghan man to 12 years in prison for war crimes committed while he was in charge of a notorious Kabul jail in the 1980s.

Abdul Razzaq Rafief “treated the prisoners cruelly and dishonourably and arbitrarily deprived them of their liberty”, Judge Els Kole told The Hague regional court, saying: “These are war crimes.”

Rafief, 76, had claimed the charges were a case of mistaken identity and he was not the commander at Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul.

But the court ruled that Rafief played a leading role in the abuse of prisoners “where he had effective command and control”.

Thousands of prisoners were tortured and some executed, Judge Kole said.

Rafief “was involved in the violence. He gave orders and knew what was happening in the prison and did nothing to stop his subordinates” from abusing inmates, the judge said.

Dutch prosecutors had asked the court to impose a 12-year prison sentence over his involvement in war crimes at Pul-e-Charkhi in the1980s.

He was accused of living in the Netherlands under a false name and being commander of the prison between 1983 and 1990 when regime opponents were held without fair trial in “appalling conditions”.

Dutch war crimes prosecutors were convinced they had the right man after interviewing about 25 witnesses around the world and tapping the phones of the suspect and his family before arresting him at his home in the southern Dutch city of Kerkrade in 2019.

Prosecutors told judges that the suspect was commander and head of political affairs from 1983 to 1990 at the Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul, where political prisoners were detained in cramped, filthy cells and routinely tortured.

Afghanistan's Soviet-backed government was fighting a guerrilla war against mujahideen rebels at the time, after the Soviet invasion in 1979.

Updated: April 14, 2022, 2:37 PM