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UNAMAUnited Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
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 Human Rights
The mandate of UNAMA Human Rights under United Nations Security Council Resolution 2096 (2013) is to "monitor the situation of civilians, to coordinate efforts to ensure their protection, to promote accountability, and to assist in the full implementation of the fundamental freedoms and human rights provisions of the Afghan Constitution and international treaties to which Afghanistan is a State party, in particular those regarding the full enjoyment by women of their human rights."

To this end, UNAMA Human Rights monitors, analyzes and reports on the human rights situation in Afghanistan and engages in protection, advocacy and capacity building activities. Through regular public updates (weekly code cables and monthly reports) and thematic reports, UNAMA Human Rights provides stakeholders, including the Government, the Afghan people, the international community, civil society and media with a substantive analysis of the human rights situation, raises issues of concern and proposes and advocates for measures to improve promotion and protection of human rights throughout Afghanistan.

Priority Areas of Work

UNAMA Human Rights is pursuing an overall strategy of “embedding human rights in Afghanistan” or “human rights everywhere all the time for everyone” in support of all Afghan people. The UNAMA Human Rights team implements this strategy through targeted research, reporting, advocacy and engagement in strategic partnerships and dialogue with Government, military, international and civil society actors, and communities across Afghanistan in four priority areas: protection of civilians, violence against women, peace and reconciliation and detention.

Protection of Civilians: UNAMA Human Rights undertakes a range of activities aimed at minimizing the impact of the armed conflict on civilians; this includes independent and impartial monitoring, documentation and reporting of incidents involving loss of life or injury to civilians; advocacy activities to strengthen protection of civilians affected by the armed conflict; and initiatives to promote respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, and the Afghan Constitution among all parties to the conflict. UNAMA Human Rights systematically documents and releases statements and public reports on protection of civilians and civilian casualties. (Click here for UNAMA reports on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.)

In addition, UNAMA Human Rights is participating with other parts of UNAMA and external stakeholders in actively observing the current Afghan government-led and NATO/ISAF process of “Transition” (transfer of lead security responsibilities from international military forces to Afghan security forces). UNAMA Human Rights’ focus is on ensuring that “Transition” does not result in a reduction of protection for civilians, encompasses the broader human security agenda and fully protects women’s rights.

Violence against Women: UNAMA Human Rights’ focus is on combating violence against women and enabling their participation in the public sphere. On 11 December 2012, UNAMA Human Rights released its latest public report documenting harmful traditional practices against women and girls and implementation of the Elimination of Violence against Law (EVAW law) by the Afghan government. The report, based on extensive country-wide research, found that despite some progress in implementing the EVAW law designed to protect Afghan women from violence, application of the landmark law continued to be hampered by “dramatic under reporting” and lack of investigations into most incidents of violence targeting women. The report recommends measures to end such practices. UNAMA Human Rights is engaged in intensive advocacy on the report’s findings and recommendations, monitoring and reporting on implementation of the EVAW law and is supporting provincial departments’ of women’s affairs and women’s NGOs throughout the country. (Click here for all UNAMA reports on violence against women)

UNAMA Human Rights also provides technical support to legislative developments (for example the draft law on traditional dispute resolution and regulation on women’s shelters) that affect women and girl’s rights. Human Rights works with Afghan partners to promote and guarantee women’s representation in Government, elections and peace, reconciliation and reintegration processes.

Peace and Reconciliation (Transitional Justice and Impunity): UNAMA Human Rights supports initiatives to mobilize and strengthen women’s and civil society organizations, victims’ groups, the media, Government and the international community to pursue processes aimed at ending impunity. UNAMA HR works with Afghan civil society to strengthen their effective participation in major political dialogues and in the current peace, reconciliation and reintegration process (Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program-APRP).

Together with other parts of UNAMA, Human Rights provides technical assistance to the APRP, the High Peace Council and other relevant actors. Human Rights aims to integrate human rights in the peace and reconciliation process through promoting the meaningful inclusion of civil society, women’s and victims’ groups in the peace and reintegration process (through facilitation of the Afghan People’s Dialogue on Peace) and through ensuring that issues of justice, accountability (particularly for serious human rights crimes), grievance resolution, vetting and amnesty are addressed in line with Afghan law and the Government’s obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.

Detention: UNAMA Human Rights documents and advocates on conflict and non-conflict related detention issues involving Afghan authorities and international military forces. Human Rights is advocating for implementation of recommendations to end widespread arbitrary detention documented in UNAMA's major reports on arbitrary detention. UNAMA Human Rights unit is also monitoring detention in National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Ministry of Justice detention facilities throughout the country and is using findings in advocacy, focusing on treatment and due process rights of detainees. (Click here for the latest UNAMA report on treatment of conflict-related detainees in Afghan custody.) 

Partnering with National Institutions and Civil Society

UNAMA Human Rights works with the following actors to support national institution building and capacity development:

AIHRC (Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission): UNAMA HR collaborates with the AIHRC on protection of civilians, violence against women, detention and impunity. UNAMA HR also supports the AIHRC in developing and implementing the National Priority Program for Human Rights and Civic Responsibility as part of Kabul Process.

Ministry of Justice: UNAMA HR provides technical support to the Human Rights Support Unit of the Ministry of Justice, which is working to facilitate comprehensive understanding and mainstreaming of human rights across ministries of the Afghan government.

Judicial and Law Enforcement Actors including Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Supreme Court and National Directorate of Security: UNAMA HR has worked with Afghan judicial and law enforcement actors since 2006 to address arbitrary detention, treatment of detainees/prisoners, violence against women and a range of rule of law concerns.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: UNAMA HR supports the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on its submissions under the Universal Periodic Review, and the Government in designing an action plan for implementation of UPR recommendations issued by the UN Human Rights Council. UNAMA HR provides technical support to Government committees that oversee drafting of country reports required under Afghanistan’s international treaty body reporting obligations.

Civil Society: UNAMA Human Rights supports and carries out joint activities with civil society organizations throughout Afghanistan and in Kabul. HR also closely monitors the situation of Afghan human rights defenders and takes appropriate action to assist and support them as necessary. 

Secretary-General's latest report 

The UN Secretary-General's quarterly report to the Security Council released on 18 June 2014 provides an update of UNAMA human right activities since 7 March 2013, listed below. For a full copy of the latest report, click here.

III. Human rights 

1. As at 31 May, UNAMA had documented 1,143 civilians killed and 2,214 injured by armed conflict in Afghanistan in 2014. This represents an increase in civilian casualties of 11 per cent compared with the same period in 2013. UNAMA attributed 78 per cent of those casualties to anti-government elements and 8 per cent to pro-government forces. Another 8 per cent of the casualties were due to unattributed crossfire during ground engagements between the parties to the conflict and 6 per cent were undetermined, resulting mostly from explosive remnants of war. Among the casualties were 79 civilian deaths and 219 civilian injuries caused by anti-government elements targeting election workers, polling centres, voters, electoral convoys and compounds between 1 January and 31 May. UNAMA also documented 122 instances of anti-government elements carrying out serious acts of intimidation against civilians, including threats of death or of cutting off fingers (inked as proof of voting)—although to date there is no evidence that these were carried through. On 5 April, UNAMA documented33 civilian deaths and 126 injuries, mostly from attacks by anti-government elements at or near polling sites.

2. Improvised explosive devices remained the main cause of civilian casualties. They accounted for 32 per cent of the total and resulted in 331 civilians killed and 734 injured between 1 January and 31 May, an increase of 3 per cent over 2013. Of those casualties, 50 per cent occurred in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Remote-controlled devices accounted for 38 per cent of civilian casualties from improvised explosive devices, down 10 per cent from 2013. The proportion of civilian casualties from pressure-plate (or victim-operated) improvised explosive devices, however, increased by 44 per cent compared with the same period in 2013. The casualties included 12 civilians who were killed, in Ghazni Province on 31 May, while travelling to a wedding party in two minivans that hit such devices planted in the road; most of the fatalities were women and children. For the first time, the number of civilian casualties caused by ground engagements was almost on par with the number of civilian casualties caused by improvised explosive devices: 310 civilians were killed and 752 were injured between 1 January and 31 May, an increase of 39 per cent in casualties caused by ground engagements compared with the same period in 2013. UNAMA also documented an increase of 20 per cent in female civilian casualties, with 102 women killed and 189 injured in the first five months of the year.

3. The Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on Children and Armed Conflict continued to receive reports of incidents of grave violations of children’s rights. Between 1 February and 30 April, 123 children were killed and a further 301 were injured by armed conflict in Afghanistan; 88 of the incidents occurred in the southern region. Improvised explosive devices were the leading cause of child casualties, responsible for 42 deaths and 82 injuries. Unexploded ordnance, explosive remnants of war and landmines claimed the lives of a further 27 children and injured another 46. Other grave violations of children’s rights recorded included: 11 attacks against locations providing health-care services, 83 incidents of attacks against schools and education personnel, 6 incidents of underage recruitment by anti-government elements and Afghan local police, 2 incidents of sexual abuse within the Afghan security forces, 3 incidents of abduction by anti-government elements and 17 incidents of denial of humanitarian access by the Afghan Local Police and the Taliban and other anti-government elements.

4. On 24 April, the Government of Afghanistan submitted to the United Nations its third report on the implementation of the children and armed conflict action plan. The report highlighted progress in 2013 to prevent underage recruitment and included annexes reporting on killing, maiming and sexual violence against children. Activities included a number of training workshops and seminars and the identification and removal of 16 underage persons from service in provincial police headquarters in 2013. In seeking to no longer have Afghanistan included in my annual report on children and armed conflict, a road map to enhance implementation of the action plan has been developed through consultation between the Government and the United Nations, but awaits final endorsement. On 12 May, after several round-table discussions with Islamic scholars and legal experts, UNAMA launched a booklet entitled “Protecting Afghanistan’s children in armed conflict”, which focuses on six grave violations of child rights. Designed as an advocacy tool, the booklet is based on national and international law and on fundamental tenets of Islam.

5. The new Criminal Procedure Code was published on 5 May and came into effect on 5 June. On 17 May, the Wolesi Jirga ratified the President’s legislative decree, whereby article 26 of the Code was amended to reinstate previous legal provisions enabling women to continue to testify against relatives, thereby facilitating the prosecution of suspects in cases of domestic violence. Other provisions in the new Code, including the mandatory presence of a defence lawyer during investigations and proceedings in felony cases and the right to challenge the extension of pretrial detention before a court, strengthen legal protections for detainees. Despite improvements, concerns remain that permitting persons to be detained for up to18 days before being brought before a judge is a contravention of international obligations. UNAMA and other United Nations entities continued to support efforts to distribute the new Code to justice institutions throughout the country.

6. UNAMA continued to visit Afghan-run detention facilities to observe the treatment of persons detained for their involvement in conflict. During the reporting period, UNAMA visited 20 places of detention, in 10 provinces, run by the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan National Police, the Central Prisons Directorate and the Afghan National Army.

KEY LINKS

UNAMA reports on the protection of civilians in armed conflict

UNAMA reports on women's rights

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - Afghanistan pages

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission

Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict