The Afghan government and the whole UN system must reinvigorate their engagement to protect human rights in Afghanistan

Press release
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Last Tuesday, the UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) until 19 March 2014. FIDH and Armanshahr Foundation/OPEN ASIA, in a joint paper released today, welcome this mandate renewal, but urge the Afghan government and the rest of the United Nations system, including the Human Rights Council, to take all necessary measures to increase their engagement to protect and promote human rights in Afghanistan. This increased engagement is especially important in light of the upcoming period of transition in Afghanistan that will be marked by presidential elections and the withdrawal of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in 2014.

UNAMA’s new mandate includes calls for more resources to be allocated to the mission, and enhancing of UNAMA’s role in coordinating and promoting the coherence of UN funds, programmes and agencies in Afghanistan. It also highlights human rights as a key to build peace in the country.

Still, the human rights situation in Afghanistan remains particularly worrying and we can only predict its further deterioration in the absence of an ambitious plan by the international community to protect and promote human rights. It is clear that the Afghan government has so far been unable to effectively establish the rule of law, secure democratic institutions, ensure the separation of powers and eradicate corruption in Afghanistan; it won’t be able to do so without international support, said Guissou Jahangiri, director of Armanshahr Foundation/OPEN ASIA.

Among other things, the Afghan government and its partners must take action to protect civilian populations from attacks by insurgents; massively invest in programs aiming at preventing gender-based violence and promoting women’s role in society; and put an end to persistent impunity and discrimination in the justice system. The recent release of Afghan Taliban prisoners, including significant figures, to push the reconciliation process forward, could only deepen this culture of impunity and pose serious threats to sustainable peace in Afghanistan, she added.

The engagement of United Nations Special Procedures in Afghanistan has been nonexistent for years. The mandate of the last Independent Expert on human rights in Afghanistan expired in 2005, the last report on Afghanistan by a Special Rapporteur was in 2008, and the last Working Group report was presented in 2009. Each mandate issued thorough recommendations, which unfortunately remain far from being implemented. Since 2009, no Special Procedures have been able to visit the country, in spite of repeated requests emanating inter alia from the Special Rapporteur on Torture and from the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH president.

In light of NATO’s forthcoming withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Human Rights Council and other United Nations bodies must act to send a clear message to the international community to remain strongly engaged in Afghanistan. The UN Human Rights Council should consider the establishment of an independent mechanism monitoring the evolution of the human rights situation and providing technical assistance to the Afghan government to strengthen the rule of law in the country.

Download FIDH and Armanshahr Foundation/OPEN ASIA’s paper.

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