Death by stoning for convicted adulterers is being written into Afghan law, a senior official said on Monday, the latest sign that human rights won at great cost since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 are rolling back as foreign troops withdraw.
"We are working on the draft of a sharia penal code where the punishment for adultery, if there are four eyewitnesses, is stoning," said Rohullah Qarizada, who is part of the sharia Islamic law committee working on the draft and head of the Afghan Independent Bar Association.
Billions have been invested on promoting human rights in Afghanistan over more than 12 years of war and donors fear that hard won progress, particularly for women, may be eroding.
During the Taliban's 1996-2001 time in power, convicted adulterers were routinely shot or stoned in executions held mostly on Fridays. Women were not permitted to go out on their own, girls were barred from schools, and men were obliged to grow long beards.
Providing fresh evidence popular support for the brutal punishment has endured, two lovers narrowly escaped being stoned in Baghlan province north of Kabul, but were publicly shot over the weekend instead, officials said.
"While they were fleeing, suddenly their car crashed and locals arrested them. People wanted to stone them on the spot but some elders disagreed," the provincial head of women's affairs, Khadija Yaqeen, told Reuters on Monday.
"The next day they decided and shot both of them dead in public. Our findings show that the woman's father had ordered to shoot both man and woman."
The public execution was confirmed by the provincial police chief's spokesman, who said the killings were unlawful.
"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.
The US-based rights group has urged funding to be tied to commitments and last month, Norway took the rare step of cutting aid on the grounds that Afghanistan had failed to meet commitments to protect women's rights and fight corruption.
Most donors, however, have stopped short of using money to pressure President Hamid Karzai's administration and US and United Nations officials were aware of the plan to reintroduce stoning, Qarizada said.
The new law, he told Reuters, was unlikely to make stoning a common practice.
"The judge asks each witness many questions and if one answer differs from other witnesses then the court will reject the claim," Qarizada said.
(Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Ron Popeski)