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10 June 2008

Democracy in Danger

On the eve of the International Afghanistan Support Conference that will take place in Paris on the 12th of June, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expresses its concern regarding the regression of democracy in the country one year before the next presidential elections and calls for the unconditional release of Latif Pedram, under house arrest since the 2nd of February 2008.


"A year away from the next elections, the international community must severely condemn the undemocratic trends, whilst notably ensuring Latif Pedram’s release and reinstatement to a full political and democratic life in his country" demanded Souhayr Belhassen, President of the FIDH, " it must also insist upon the Afghan authorities to guarantee a maximum amount of space to democratic forces, excluding former war criminals from the next presidential and parliamentary elections."

Context:

Latif Pedram is a renowned intellectual, co-founder of the National Congress of Afghanistan, a multi-ethnic party for democratic change in Afghanistan, the only opposition party that is not linked to an armed group.

Since the 2nd of February 2008, Mr Pedram has been de facto placed under house arrest in Kabul, in a house surrounded by the police and security forces of the Ministry of Interior, without official justification whatsoever.

The Attorney General has forbidden him to leave Afghan territory for having allegedly been witness to an altercation between two Afghan political personalities. These accusations are unfounded and more than likely aimed at curtailing his political activities and hindering his candidacy for next year’s presidential elections.

Latif Pedram’s house arrest occurs in a context wherein a number of pacifist and democratic personalities from civil society are deliberately being targeted (the parliamentarian Malalay Joya was forbidden to exercise her function), threatened with death (the President of the National Human Rights Commission Mrs Sima Samar), when they aren’t assassinated (the body of the BBC correspondent, Abdelsamad Ruhani, found dead on the 8th of June 2008.)

The next presidential elections will take place in 2009 and the parliamentary elections in 2010. The FIDH calls for the revision of the eligibility criteria in order to stop old war criminals or any person responsible for crimes against humanity from being candidates, and to promote democratic forces. This commitment had been made, under the previous parliamentary elections, to guarantee that no former war criminal or person responsible for crimes against humanity be eligible for parliamentary elections. Nonetheless, this commitment didn’t have much effect and thus many former war criminals found themselves on the benches of the Afghan parliament, where they blocked numerous opportunities for democratic and institutional reforms.

The last two elections have been marred by serious irregularities. The international community must ensure that the Afghan authorities organise the fairest elections possible by organising a pre-electoral population census in order to redraw the electoral map, until now based on estimations. This census was supposed to start in July. On the 8th of June, the Afghan Central Bureau of Statistics announced its postponement for two years, claiming a "politicisation" of the exercise, a somewhat strange response as it concerns the preparation of an exercise in political expression.

For further information, please see FIDH’s situation paper on page 2
Last Update 10 June 2008

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