Citizens have the right to cast their vote in safety and to expect credible elections
KABUL - In the run-up to voting on 28 September in presidential elections, the United Nations in Afghanistan urges all stakeholders to play their part in creating conditions for citizens to vote in safety and for the credibility of the electoral process to be safeguarded.
“Free from fear, intimidation and threats of violence, voters must be given every opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to cast a ballot and elect political representatives in a peaceful manner,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
In a meeting in Doha on Tuesday, Yamamoto repeated the United Nations’ call on the Taliban to desist from any activity that would interfere with the elections, particularly with regard to the safety of voters and all other civilians engaged in the election.
Yamamoto, who is also the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), stressed that the election is a civilian undertaking. He highlighted that attacks directed against polling centres and civilians participating in the electoral process are clear violations of international law and may amount to war crimes. He furthermore stressed that perpetrators of such crimes must be held accountable and urged the Taliban to retract any instructions which could disrupt elections.
In the campaign period, there have been two high-profile election-related attacks that have caused heavy loss of civilian life. Last week, on 17 September, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Parwan at the site of an election rally for incumbent President Ashraf Ghani. Thirty civilians were killed in the attack and 51 were injured. On 28 July, 21 civilians were killed and 50 injured in an attack on the Green Trend’s main office in Kabul. No party claimed responsibility for that attack.
As polling day nears, there have been increased reports of intimidation of eligible voters by insurgents threatening retaliation for persons involving themselves in the election. On 24 September, three civilians were killed in Kandahar when an improvised explosive device detonated at an election office of President Ghani. A journalist working for the local Hewad TV station was killed, as were two children.
The United Nations condemns all deliberate attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks. Moreover, the United Nations calls on all parties to de-escalate the conflict around the electoral period and to take urgent measures to better protect civilians from being harmed in any military operations.
UNAMA commends the work performed by the security forces in supporting the elections, safeguarding the distribution of sensitive election materials and ensuring the security of the polling locations on and before election day so that all Afghans, including women, can participate.