Afghanistan: Killing of Mr. Asmatullah Salaam, director of Zhowand in Ghazni

Urgent Appeal

AFG 003 / 0820 / OBS 088
August 4, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Afghanistan.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the killing of Mr. Asmatullah Salaam, director of the civil society organisation Zhowand and head of a local community council in Andar District, Ghazni Province.

According to the information received, on August 1, 2020, Mr. Asmatullah Salaam was kidnapped by Taliban members while he was driving to Khwzeyo, Andar District, Ghazni Province, to visit his family for Eid celebrations. The kidnappers stopped his car and abducted him. His body was found a day later, on August 2, in Wahghez, with signs of severe torture.

Mr. Asmatullah Salaam was an emblematic figure among the young people he worked with, was active in promoting education, and had recently started to implement projects with the Afghan Ministry of Education through Zhowand. This is not the first time that the organisation’s staff have been subjected to targeted killings. On June 22, 2020, Mr. Salaam’s predecessor, former Zhowand director Mr. Naqibullah Khaksar, was killed in Ghazni.

The Observatory strongly condemns the killing of Mr. Asmatullah Salaam, which seems to be merely aimed at punishing him for his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities in a context of systematic attacks on Afghan human rights defenders, civil society organisations, and journalists by armed insurgent groups.

The Observatory urges the Afghan authorities to immediately carry out a thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation into the killing of Mr. Asmatullah Salaam, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law.

The Observatory is particularly concerned by the alarming number of targeted attacks against human rights defenders across Afghanistan and recalls that in a previous attack, the Taliban targeted two staff members of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), Ms. Fatima Khali and Mr. Jawid Folad, who died when an improvised explosive device (IED) placed under their car exploded in Kabul on June 27, 2020[1]. On June 3, 2020, Mr.  Ibrahim Ebrat, representative of the Civil Society Joint Working Group (CSJWG) in Zabul Province, was fatally shot in the street while he was returning from Ramadan prayers[2]. To date, no investigations have been carried out in relation to their assassinations.

The Observatory calls on the Afghan authorities to implement the strategy for the protection of human rights defenders, to which they publicly committed on January 20, 2020, and to put an end to the culture of impunity that prevails in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Afghanistan asking them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all human rights defenders in Afghanistan;

ii. Carry out a swift, thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation into the killing of Mr. Asmatullah Salaam in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and punish them as provided by the law;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights defenders in Afghanistan, and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Afghanistan.


· Mr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Twitter: @ARG_AFG
· Dr. Abdul Baseer Anwar, Minister of Justice, Email:, Twitter: @MojAfghanistan
· Ministry of Interior Affairs, Email:, Twitter: @moiafghanistan
· H.E Mr. Nasir Ahmad Andisha, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email:;
· Embassy of Afghanistan in Brussels, Belgium, Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Afghanistan in your respective country.

Geneva-Paris, August 4, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by OMCT and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail:
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80


[1] See Observatory Urgent Appeal AFG 002 / 0720 / OBS 075, published on July 1, 2020.
[2] See Observatory Urgent Appeal ​ AFG 001 / 0620 / OBS 060, published on June 2, 2020.

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