Assadullah Sarwari

01.05.2016 ( Last modified: 09.06.2016 )
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Born in 1941, Sarwari was a member of the Khalq-wing of the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which came to power through a putsch in April 1978. The Khalq- (“people”) wing was tangled up in constant in-fighting with the Parcham- (“banner”) wing of the PDPA.

From 1 April 1979 on, Sarwari was the chief of the secret police AGSA (Afghanistan Gattho Satunkai Aidara/ Afghanistan Interests Safeguarding Administration), the predecessor organisation to the KhAD, (Khedamat-e Etelea’at-e Dawlati) the regime’s secret police set up in 1980 to suppress its internal opponents.

Sarwari was involved in the attempted assassination of Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin, but had to flee to the USSR, after the plot failed. After the December 1979 Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, Sarwari returned, and became Vice President, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Transport in the Soviet-backed government of Babrak Karmal. In January 1980, Sarwari also became a member of the Politbureau of the PDPA.

In June 1980, however, Sarwari’s political career was cut short due to the political in-fighting in the PDPA. President Karmal (Parcham-wing) had him removed from his posts and sent to Mongolia as ambassador.

Several thousands of political opponents were tortured and killed under the various branches of the Afghan security and secret services during the communist regime in the 1980s. Sarwari was reported to have personally tortured high-ranking political opponents.

Sarwari is reported to have been detained since 1992, when Mujahideen factions overthrew the Soviet-backed communist regime in Kabul.


legal procedure

Sarwari is said to have been detained since 1992, when Mujahideen factions overthrew the Soviet-backed communist regime in Kabul.

He has been charged with torture, illegal mass arrests and executions.

His trial started on 26 December 2005 before the National Security Court.

On the first day of his trial, Sarwari rejected the charges, stating that he considered them to be a political conspiracy. Sarwari was given 20 days to prepare an official declaration

On 31 January 2006, the trial was adjourned again, in order to give Sarwari time to find a defence counsel.

The trial resumed on 23 February 2006, with Sarwari conducting his own defence. The same day, after having auditioned more than 20 witnesses and after seeing video footage of documents allegedly signed by Sarwari, the Court found Sarwari guilty of killing hundreds of people in the communist prisons under his control. He was sentenced to death.

Sarwari was expected to appeal.



Sawari’s trial is the first for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan where successive regimes have been accused of abuses in 25 years of war.

Human Rights NGOs have criticised the trial for falling short of basic standards of fairness. Sarwari is said to have had difficulty keeping an attorney because lawyers are pressured not to represent him. The prosecutors are said to have presented only scant evidence. Witnesses heard before the Court have reportedly spoken at length about what they heard from relatives or friends, but none had seen Sarwari commit the crimes.


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