A 60-year-old woman and her 17-year-old grandson who were travelling to their home in Dehrawod District, central Uruzgan Province, were briefly interrogated and then forced out of a bus on 12 December, eyewitnesses and provincial officials said.
After a short scuffle in which the old woman was pleading for clemency, she and her grandson were shot dead in front of over a dozen frightened passengers and bystanders.
"The old woman and her grandson were spying for [Afghan] government and American forces," charged Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, a purported spokesman of the Taliban insurgents.
However, a day later Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly rejected the charge and asked: "How can an old and illiterate woman work as a spy in a conservative and traditional society?"
On 20 December, gunmen associated with Taliban insurgents hanged two young men in Kajaki District, Helmand Province, after accusing them of spying for Karzai's government, provincial officials reported.
In another incident on 7 December, Taliban rebels hanged a 12-year-old boy in Sangeen District, Helmand Province. He had been accused of working as a secret agent for the US military, Mohammad Husain Andiwal, Helmand's chief of police, said.
"He was hanged by the Taliban on false and baseless charges," Andiwal said.
Executing civilians on charges of espionage and other violent measures widely used by Taliban insurgents against non-combatants are crimes against humanity and a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said.
"The Taliban and other warring parties must immediately stop killing and punishing civilian people through extra-judiciary means," Ahmad Nader Naderi, a commissioner with the AIHRC, said.
“Strategy to terrorise”
At least 15 civilians have been killed by Taliban rebels in the past three months on charges of anti-Taliban activity and/or working for the Karzai government and international forces, according to figures compiled by the AIHRC.
"The killing of civilians [based] on mere accusations is a strategy to terrorise communities and force people to obey insurgents," Naderi told IRIN.
Taliban rebels have also circulated their messages through numerous video-clips showing the beheading of alleged spies and government supporters.
"They [Taliban] do not care very much about an individual they kill, but the way and method of killing and the message it sends is important to them," said Ajmal Samadi, an Afghan academic at the London School of Economics who researches insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan.
Owing to the weak judicial system and fragile law and order, nearly 80 percent of legal cases are settled by traditional decision-making in the country, according to Afghanistan's 2007 National Human Development Report (NHDR).
Afghanistan's estimated ratio of citizens per judge is 21,317:1 and there is a backlog of at least 6,000 cases awaiting adjudication, the NHDR found.
Taliban rebels have imposed their own harsh judiciary in some isolated communities under their control in southern and south-central parts of Afghanistan.
A young man and a woman allegedly involved in an illicit sexual relationship were killed by Taliban gunmen in Ghazni Province on 15 November, provincial officials said.
Elsewhere in the south and southeast of the country Taliban judges have reportedly sentenced people to death, amputation and other harsh penalties.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions