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 6 December 2013 provides an update of UNAMA human right activities since 6 September 2013, listed below. For a full copy of the latest report, click here.
III. Human rights
23. From 15 to 17 September, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, visited Afghanistan. She met with senior Government and security officials, including President Karzai, and held talks with the Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, representatives of civil society, the diplomatic community and ISAF. She urged that the human rights gains of the past 12 years not be sacrificed to political expediency amid the demands of the transition processes and highlighted, in particular, the need to protect and strengthen the rights of women and children and the accountability of Afghan security institutions. She expressed concern about the non-consultative process of appointing the five new members of the Commission and the potential impact on the body’s standing, given the upcoming five-year accreditation review by the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions. On 18 November, the Commission underwent the review, with a formal recommendation to follow at a later date.
24. The conflict continued to take a toll on civilians. Between 1 August and 31 October, UNAMA documented 2,572 civilian casualties (846 deaths and 1,726 injured), bringing the total for the first 10 months of 2013 to 7,394 (2,568 deaths and 4,826 injuries), a 13 per cent rise compared with the same period in 2012. Three quarters of the casualties were attributed to anti-Government elements. Their use of improvised explosive devices, including in complex attacks and suicide attacks, accounted for 49 per cent of the casualties and remains the biggest threat to civilians. UNAMA attributed 10 per cent of civilian casualties to pro-Government forces and another 11 per cent to ground operations and attacks that could not be attributed to any party; the remaining 4 per cent resulted mostly from explosive remnants of war and cross-border shelling. Most striking in the first 10 months of the year was the number of civilians killed (456) or injured (1,454) during ground engagements between pro-Government forces and anti-Government elements: an increase of 36 per cent was recorded compared with the same period in 2012. The eastern region is of particular concern, with a 52 per cent increase in civilian casualties from ground engagements.
25. Afghan children continued to suffer the impact of the armed conflict. Between 1 August and 31 October, UNAMA documented 444 incidents of children being killed and maimed by conflict-related violence — 138 deaths and 306 injuries. This reflects a 6 per cent reduction in deaths and a 23 per cent rise in injuries. Artillery and rocket shelling, together with crossfire shootings during ground engagements, killed 42 children and injured 145, a 67 per cent increase over the same period in 2012. Unexploded ordnance and landmine detonations resulted in another 13 child deaths and 27 injuries, on par with the same period in 2012. Most child casualties (62 per cent) were attributed to armed opposition groups and 14 per cent to pro-Government forces, with the remainder not being attributable. UNAMA also documented 23 attacks against educational facilities, including firing by S/2013/721 anti-Government elements on a school in Maiwand (Kandahar Province) on 26 October, which killed an 8-year-old boy. Seven incidents of child recruitment — two by Afghan Local Police and five by anti-Government elements — were recorded. On 24 September, the Government’s technical working group on children and armed conflict met to accelerate the implementation of the action plan for the prevention of underage recruitment. All relevant ministries were requested to provide feedback on the road map for compliance with the plan. Between 20 and 22 October, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund visited Kabul. In meetings with Government officials, civil society, the private sector and United Nations partners, he reiterated the Organization’s long-term commitment to the women and children of Afghanistan and appealed for increased funding for human and social development aid for the most vulnerable.
26. UNAMA continued to monitor the implementation of the law on the elimination of violence against women and efforts to end such harmful practices as forced and child marriage. Under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, the Government of Afghanistan committed to preparing a report on the implementation of the law. In October Government representatives stated that the report would be ready later in the year. The United Nations is providing technical assistance in the preparation of the report, as requested by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. On 25 November, the Organization supported events across Afghanistan to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the start of the annual 16-day campaign of global activism to end gender violence. Focus group discussions, debates and workshops with youth groups, religious leaders, government officials and civil society continued throughout the campaign to raise awareness and to reinforce the critical need for further action to end violence against Afghan women and girls and to advance women’s rights.
27. UNAMA continued to visit Afghan-run detention facilities throughout the country to assess the treatment of conflict-related detainees and the implementation of presidential decree No. 129 on preventing torture and ill-treatment. Between August and October, UNAMA personnel visited 27 locations in 13 provinces, including facilities run by the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan National Police, the Central Prisons Directorate and the Afghan National Army. Concerns about new incidents of alleged torture and ill-treatment were raised with the new Minister of the Interior and the Director of National Security, who committed to addressing abuse in their institutions. UNAMA also continued to work with ISAF on reviewing detention practices in select Afghan-run detention facilities. ISAF conducted its second certification review to identify locations to which detainees could be transferred from the custody of international military forces to Afghan security institutions without the risk of torture.
28. UNAMA, with key stakeholders, has supported the redrafting of 173 prison-related operational directives, to be completed by the end of the year. To date, 114 of those directives have been promulgated. UNAMA also continued to work with the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan and relevant partners to improve the prison infrastructure in Afghanistan.
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