Alarm at worsening human rights situation in Afghanistan

5 Mar 2009

Alarm at worsening human rights situation in Afghanistan

NEW YORK - The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says the escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan has had a “significant impact on civilians.”

Press Release: English - Dari - Pashto

Ms. Navi Pillay presents her annual report on Afghanistan to the Human Rights Council in Geneva today.

“The intensifying conflict has also resulted in a disturbing rise in civilian casualties and has contracted the space for humanitarian action,” says the report.

The report on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan highlights concerns over the deteriorating situation, with the High Commissioner urging greater respect for the protection of civilians from all sides.

As International Women’s Day approaches on 8 March the report also points to violence against women, rape, “honour killings”, early and forced marriage, sexual abuse and slavery remaining widespread.

“Important gains made recently by women in the public sphere are in danger of receding,” the report says. It goes on to say: “Threats and intimidation against women in public life or who work outside the home have seen a dramatic increase.”

One of the successes of post-Taliban Afghanistan, freedom of expression and the rapid expansion of a new media in the country, is also raised in the report citing that freedom of expression came under significant threat last year: “Setbacks to the media, and efforts to maintain freedom of expression are a major concern.”

The report concludes that “efforts to transform Afghan society were seriously undermined by the intensification of the armed conflict, growing lawlessness, widespread abuse of power, violence against women and their persistent marginalization, and a significant clampdown on freedom of expression.” It goes on to say that there’s a lack of political will to address “engrained problems” and that “impunity prevails.”

Seven recommendations for the Government of Afghanistan and the international community are made including integrating a human rights perspective into key decision-making and implementation of policies, ensuring greater protection for civilians, promotion of the recently launched National Action Plan for Women in Afghanistan, a commitment to addressing impunity, protection of civil society, and the Government is “strongly urged” to reinstate its moratorium on the death penalty.

This week the Human Rights Council in Geneva opened its tenth regular session where High Commissioner Navi Pillay will present her first annual report to the council and chair a series of meetings with representatives from governments, NGOs and human rights institutions.

Annual Report on Afghanistan to the Human Rights Council, March 2009 (Dari - Pashto)