Afghanistan Neglects Human Rights

The following letter was sent to President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice regarding the Afghan trial of Abdul Rahman.

March 23, 2006

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to express my grave concern about the trial and threatened execution of Mr. Abdur Rahman, an Afghan citizen who was arrested last month in Kabul after his family accused him of converting from Islam to Christianity. Under Afghanistan’s Sharia law, Mr. Rahman may face the death penalty if found guilty of apostasy. The judge overseeing the trial has publicly affirmed that if Mr. Rahman does not return to Islam, “the punishment will be enforced on him, and the punishment is death.”

This case confirms that fundamental democratic rights and freedoms, particularly those rights related to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, are still under threat in Afghanistan, despite the fact that Afghanistan’s own constitution in its Preamble and in Article 2 on Religions protects these rights. Further, Afghanistan has an obligation under international legal documents to which it is a signatory, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to also protect the rights of its citizens to believe and worship as they so choose.

We welcome your statement of March 22, 2006 regarding Mr. Rahman’s case that “we can solve this problem by working closely with the government that we’ve got contacts with—and will. We’ll deal with this issue diplomatically and remind people that there is something as universal as being able to choose religion.”

Mr. President, the arrest of Mr. Rahman indicates that religious freedom and the fundamental human rights of not just this one man, but of each and every Afghan citizen, are still not fully protected in Afghanistan. Our government must act vigorously on his behalf. I urge you to express to President Karzai our profound hope that Mr. Abdur Rahman’s right, and the right of all Afghanis, to freedom of religion is fully protected.


Christopher H. Smith
Member of Congress