No Justice in Afghanistan for Slain Journalist 2 Years On

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Yama Siawash, 36, was known among Afghans for engaging in heated debates with government officials on live television.
© 2020 Yama Siawash

Two years ago today, former Tolo News TV presenter Yama Siawash was killed in a car bombing on November 7, 2020, moments after he climbed into a government-owned vehicle in Kabul. Despite the high-profile nature of the attack, the former Afghan government failed to carry out a thorough investigation or prosecute anyone for the crime.

Siawash was known among Afghans for engaging in heated debates with government officials on live television. He uncovered corruption and exposed the shortcomings of then-President Ashraf Ghani’s government, journalism that earned him threats from senior Afghan officials.

In April 2021, Afghan authorities claimed to have arrested 11 suspects who had allegedly confessed to the bombing and other crimes. Afghan authorities have a history of obtaining coerced confessions through use of torture. None of the 11 were prosecuted. A parliamentary inquiry concluded that the authorities also failed to carry out a forensic investigation and preserve critical evidence from the scene of the attack, including the remains of the car.

Siawash’s killing took place during a period of skyrocketing attacks on Afghan journalists. According to a United Nations report, 33 Afghan media professionals were killed between 2018 and 2021. The Taliban and groups linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) admitted responsibility for many of these, but the perpetrators of other attacks, including the one that killed Siawash, remain unknown. The UN found that impunity for these attacks had been “total.” With the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, access to justice has further narrowed as the group has dismantled the justice system and continues to carry out serious abuses against journalists.

The second anniversary of Siawash’s killing follows the International Criminal Court’s announcement that it can resume its investigation in Afghanistan. This investigation needs to address serious crimes by all parties to the conflict, including those for which former Afghan government officials may be responsible. The Siawash family is still seeking justice. His killing, and all attacks on journalists, activists, and other civilians should be at the forefront of any investigation.

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