The Saur Death List of Afghanistan
David Loyn investigates how a lost document is helping Afghanistan come to terms with its painful past.
It revolves around the lesser known moment when Afghanistan began to fall apart: 1978, two years before the Soviet invasion. Lesser known, partly because the world wasn't really paying attention but also because evidence of state murder and disappearance was covered up after the co-called Saur Revolution. That is, until now. A war crimes trial in the Netherlands has unearthed a list of 5000 prisoners detained, tortured and killed by the radical communist regime in 1978 / 79.
This 'Death List' has less than half the total number of people unaccounted for during that period but it has finally given families of the disappeared confirmation of the fate of their loved ones and allowed them to mourn. The reverberations of this are being felt strongly in Afghanistan. This story is told through the eyes of a remarkable survivor of these purges whose name is on the list of the dead.
This 'Death List' leads us to the issue of justice and accountability for war crimes in Afghanistan, not just from 1978 but over the following three decades. Post 9/11 the West dealt with warlords whose very poor human rights records went unquestioned and many of them now hold powerful government positions in Afghanistan. It raises the question: when will the country be able to face the crimes of its recent past and bring the perpetrators to justice? It's a question on the lips of many ordinary Afghans.
Producer Neil McCarthy.