Public stoning, once held up as the pinnacle of Taliban atrocity, could be reintroduced to punish adultery in Afghanistan, appearing a new draft of the country's penal code concerning "moral crimes", according to Human Rights Watch.
The Justice ministry's working group has recommended that if a couple is found by a court to have engaged in sexual intercourse outside a legal marriage, both the man and woman shall be sentenced to “[s]toning to death if the adulterer or adulteress is married.”
The provisions state that the “implementation of stoning shall take place in public in a predetermined location.” If the “adulterer or adulteress is unmarried,” the sentence shall be “whipping 100 lashes," according to the draft seen by the human rights activists.
An Afghan woman walks past a child begging on a street in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan
The pressure group is calling on international donors to withdraw funding for President Hamid Karzai's government should the stoning inclusion go ahead.
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“It is absolutely shocking that 12 years after the fall of the Taliban government, the Karzai administration might bring back stoning as a punishment,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“President Karzai needs to demonstrate at least a basic commitment to human rights and reject this proposal out of hand.”
Stoning was commonplace during the Taliban-era, from the mid-1990s to 2001, but the current government has signed international human rights conventions and pledges to protect human rights, and to advance the rights of women.
In various tribal regions, stoning has been reported as being used in "honour crimes" but Human Rights Watch say this is the first time such a punishment would be condoned by government.
In 2010, Taliban militants in northern Afghanistan stoned a young couple to death for adultery, which rights groups said was the first confirmed use of the punishment here since the hardline Islamist regime was ousted in 2001.
A year later, a graphic video emerged of a public stoning of a couple accused of adultery in the northern regions of the country.
The couple had eloped to Pakistan, but were lured back, promised they would not be harmed. Men dug a large hole in the ground and threw rocks as large as human skulls at 25-year-old Siddqa, her face covered by a blue burka, then at her boyfriend Khayyam.
At the time, Afghan police officials condemned the murders and said those responsible would be punished.
Afghanistan is in the midst of negotiating a bi-lateral security agreement with the United States which will cement American support for the region over the next decade, as troops leave the country. It must be signed by the end of 2013, or the US has warned it will not have time to plan the mechanisms of support before troops leave.
“Donors need to make clear that international support to Afghanistan’s government is not a blank check,” Adams said. “International aid should generously support health and education and other crucial needs, but donor money shouldn’t pay for backsliding to Taliban-era abuses.”