On 27 April 1978, a group of left-wing army officers carried out a coup d'état, in which the head of state, President Daoud, was killed. This revolution, known as the Saur revolution, resulted in a struggle between the new communist regime (established in Kabul and a few major cities) and an ever growing number of rebel groups in other parts of the country. Russian troops, Afghan troops loyal to the new regime, and paramilitary units fought against resistance groups, which were mainly Islamic. Thousands of opponents or alleged opponents of the communist regime were arrested, tortured, and killed.
Four cases involving crimes committed during this armed conflict were tried in the Netherlands.
Case against Abdul Razaq A., also known as Abdulrazaq R.
In 2012, the Dutch police’s attention was drawn to several internet blogs claiming that a high ranking prison commander from Afghanistan was residing in the Netherlands. Thorough research by the police, in which about 30 witnessess were interviewed in various countries, it was concluded that this person was Abdul Razaq A. He had come to the Netherlands in 2001 and, using another surname, had been living in the Dutch town of Kerkrade for years. A. was suspected of having been a commander and Head of Political Affairs in the Pul-e-Charkhi prison from 1983 to 1990. In this notorious prison in the Afghan capital of Kabul, (alleged) political opponents of the ruling regime were imprisoned for years without a (fair) trial, with conditions being poor and inhumane.
The Hague District Court ruled in the case against A. on 14 April 2022. According to the Court, A., having had a leadership position in the prison, had been criminally involved in the cruel and degrading treatment of detained political opponents, whom he had arbitrarily deprived of their liberty. These crimes constitute war crimes, for which the Court sentenced A. to a 12-year imprisonment.
Case against Hesamuddin H.
"I often had to bend over and stand in that position for long periods of time, or I had to stand on one leg with my hands against the wall. Once, I even had to stand on one leg for forty days in a row. ...The worst torture I had to endure was being exposed to an electric current. A number of times, they put electric wires into my mouth and switched on the current. ...Worst of all was when they applied electric wires to my genitals. That was excruciatingly painful. In November and December, the coldest months in Afghanistan, I had to stand outdoors in the snow, naked, from dusk till dawn..." - (Quotation from a witness statement in the case against Hesamuddin H.)
During the communist regime, H. was a high-ranking general in the Afghan army. He was head of KhaD-e-Nezami, the military intelligence service, and state secretary at the Ministry of State Security. In 1992, H. applied for asylum in the Netherlands. His application was refused on the basis of Article 1F of the Convention on the Status of Refugees, since there were serious reasons to consider that H. had been involved in torture and war crimes. Incriminating information about H. came to light in the context of another criminal investigation in 2003. A new criminal investigation was launched and, on 27 November 2004, H. was arrested in Boskoop, the Netherlands. The Court of Appeal in The Hague ultimately sentenced H. to twelve years' imprisonment for torture and the war crime of torture. This judgment was confirmed by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands in 2008.
Case against Habibullah J.
"...I was tortured from twelve noon to eleven o' clock at night. The torture involved the application of an electric current to my body, and beating me with all kinds of objects, such as sticks and twigs. ...I cannot hold my urine because of the torture to my kidneys and other torture. In addition, I have severe problems with my nerves. I am extremely stressed and tense... - (Quotation from a witness statement in the case against Habibullah J.)
J. was head of the interrogation department of the military intelligence service KhaD-e-Nezami, and a subordinate of the above H. in the period from 1979 to 1989. In 1996, he applied for asylum in the Netherlands, but his application was refused on the grounds of Article 1F of the Convention on the Status of Refugees. There were serious reasons to consider that J. had committed war crimes. A criminal investigation was launched, and in 2004, J. was arrested on suspicion of war crimes. The Court of Appeal in The Hague sentenced J. to nine years' imprisonment for the war crime of torture. This judgment was confirmed by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands in 2008.
Case against Abdullah F.
F. was director of Department 2 of KhaD-e-Nezami's Military Affairs Division. Later, he was appointed governor of the Kunduz province. In 1994, he applied for asylum in the Netherlands, but his application was refused on the grounds of Article 1F of the Convention on the Status of Refugees. There were serious reasons to consider that F. had been involved in torturing prisoners and allowing his subordinates to torture prisoners. F. was arrested in 2006, but the Court acquitted him of the charges of torturing prisoners and of being responsible for the torture of prisoners by his subordinates. This judgment was upheld by the Court of Appeal in The Hague and was confirmed by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands in 2011.