26 August 2008A senior United Nations human rights official in Afghanistan voiced deep concern today that two individuals convicted in 2006 for the rape of a woman in the north of the country have been released early. “This sends the wrong message to other perpetrators of violent crimes against women, that they will not be held accountable for their actions,” said Norah Niland, the head of the human rights unit with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), adding that “there can be no peace in Afghanistan without justice.”Ms. Niland noted that the 11-year prison sentence against the perpetrators was upheld by the Court of Appeal and confirmed by the Afghan Supreme Court. However, the two men were subsequently released from incarceration after serving “a fraction of their sentence” and are now back in the neighbourhood of Samangan province where the crime was perpetrated and where the victim and her family continue to live.“While there appears to be conflicting reports on the circumstances of the release of these prisoners, whatever the circumstances, this is clearly an injustice against the victim, the victims’ family and all Afghan women,” Ms. Niland stated. “Such injustice can only promote a culture of impunity for violence perpetrated against women.”She welcomed the intention by the Afghan authorities to investigate the circumstances surrounding the release and urged them take all appropriate measures to ensure that justice is done and the rights of Afghan women are protected.