Afghan War Crimes suspect arrested in The Netherlands

The Netherlands National Police arrested 64 year-old Dutch national of Afghan origin Sadeq A. at his city of residence, Rotterdam, last Tuesday. He is suspected of having committed war crimes in Afghanistan in 1979. Today, the Investigative Judge in The Hague has extended the pretrial detention of A. by 14 days.

As a former commander of commando unit 444 of the Afghan Army, Sadeq A. is believed to have been involved in killings in and around the Kerala area of Assadabad, the capital of the Afghan province Kunar on 20 April 1979.


The commando unit under A.’s orders took part in several killings. The Dutch Afghan allegedly fired shots himself as well. The elite unit of the communist regime at the time is believed to have been involved in repelling an attack by Mujahedeen on the provincial capital in the night of 19 to 20 April 1979 under command of the suspect. In the wake of this attack, government troops are said to have dragged large numbers of men and boys  from their homes and to have killed them. Some are said to have been shot on the spot, others taken away by soldiers and killed elsewhere.

Some survived being taken prisoner and were released the next day. Two of them, 15 year-old youths at the time, state that they were lined up by the troops but spared at the last minute because of their youthful appearance. The father of one of the boys and the elder brother and uncle of the other were allegedly executed while they stood beside them.

After the murders the remaining women and children left Kerala. Their homes were vacant for years.

The Netherlands

Upon the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, the regime that A. worked for fell, and he was imprisoned. When the political control over Afghanistan changed again, he was released in 1990. Finally, the Afghan came to  came to the Netherlands, where he was granted asylum in the 1990s and eventually became a Dutch citizen.


Following a criminal complaint by relatives, the International Crimes Unit of the Netherlands National Police launched a criminal investigation into the crimes allegedly committed by the suspect living in The Netherlands.

In the course of the investigation, residents of Assadabad, former Mujahedeen fighters, fellow party members of A. and troops from the former Afghan government army were heard as witnesses.

On 8 April 2015, four homes and a vehicle were searched by the Netherlands Police in the Dutch municipalities of Rotterdam, Bussum, Wateringen and Dordrecht. Several individuals, including family members of the suspect, were examined as witnesses as well.

War in Afghanistan

On 27 April 1978 a coup known as the Saur Revolution, took place in Afghanistan, which brought to power the Communist Democratic Workers’ Party of Afghanistan. This coup was followed by a civil war between the communist government and what were known as the Mujahedeen. Ever since, Afghanistan has seamlessly slipped from one war into the next one. A situation that continues until the present day.

Undesirability of Impunity

Afghanistan has been in a state of war for more than 35 years. War Crimes should not remain unpunished. This conflict therefore still has the attention of the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office. Previously, two former Afghan generals living in the Netherlands were convicted of acts of torture for which they had been responsible during their time with the Afghan security service KhAD. Another investigation into Afghan War Crimes and enforced disappearance was closed prematurely in 2013, because the suspect living in the Netherlands died. It did, however, yield answers about the fate of thousands who had been arrested and killed by the regime at former regime.

The Netherlands are committed to not being a safe haven for war criminals and aims to the fight against impunity for international crimes. Moreover, fighting impunity is important to Afghans in Afghanistan and abroad.  Impunity also plays a role in the perpetuation of conflicts. The Netherlands International Crimes Unit is therefore dedicated to tracking and prosecuting war criminals, even if this takes years.

Call for witnesses

The Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office Asks persons who were present in or around Kerala, Dam Kelai or Assadabad on or around 20 April 1979 and who are witnesses of events relating to the investigation tocontact the Netherlands National Police.

Persons who were present at the time as government troops or government officials may have information that is especially important for the Dutch investigation. These categories of persons are therefore urged to provide such information to the Dutch Police.

The International Crimes Team of the Netherland National Police may be reached by phone at +31-6-51287774, by email at and via the Facebook account You may also send text messages or a place a ‘missed call’ in which case you will be called back. You may contact us in Dari, Pashtu, English, German or Dutch.