Photo: Salt Lake County DA via Twitter

Rights groups launch campaign to resettle 1,500 at-risk Afghanistan prosecutors

A group of US and exiled Afghanistan rights organizations have recently launched a campaign to rescue and resettle 1,500 at-risk prosecutors who have been left behind in Afghanistan or are stranded in Pakistan.

The campaign, named “Prosecutors for Prosecutors”, aims to raise $15 million to save the lives of these prosecutors and bring them to safer countries where they can continue their work without fear, the US-based Salt Lake County District Attorney, one of the organizers, said in a press release on Thursday.

The campaign was launched during a press conference held at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office building the same day.

“The situation for Afghan prosecutors has become increasingly perilous,” Yama Rayeen, chairperson of the International Organization for Transitional Justice and Peace (ITJP), which is one of the organizing groups, said and added that 26 prosecutors or their relatives have been tortured and killed by the Taliban since 2021.

When the Taliban swept across Kabul in mid-August 2021, the group released thousands of militant groups, including many senior al Qaeda operatives from the Bagram Air Base and the country’s largest Pul-e-Charkhi prison which contained a maximum-security cell block for A-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners.

The statement voiced concerns that the Taliban’s “release of criminals from prisons pose an imminent threat to these brave individuals, who have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of justice and the principles of transparency and democracy”.

Before August 2021, ITJP stated that nearly 6,000 staff members of the Afghanistan Attorney General Office were actively involved in vital rule of law programs, prosecuting criminal cases that often involved high-profile members of the Taliban.

“These brave prosecutors, who had received training from the United States and allied countries, are now in hiding, unemployed, and facing grave hardships.” He asserted.

Jackson County, Missouri Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker raised similar concerns during the official launch of the campaign.

“These prosecutors dedicated their lives to implementing a system based on American democracy and it is costing them dearly. Now is not the time to turn our backs against our partners. Our office, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and prosecutors from around the US are committed to getting our Afghan colleagues and their families to safety.”

Taliban’s chief spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid denied these concerns as “baseless” saying no prosecutor is in “danger” in Afghanistan. Mujahid also accused the campaign of “trying to evacuate cadres from Afghanistan in the name of transitional justice and peace.”