Protecting detainee rights the focus of UN-backed event in northeast Afghanistan

2 Oct 2019

Protecting detainee rights the focus of UN-backed event in northeast Afghanistan

PUL-E-KHUMRI - The rights of detainees must be protected, and their dignity upheld, said participants at a UN-backed symposium in the northeast city of Pul-e-Khumri, capital of Baghlan province.

As part of the event, representatives from judicial and national security institutions discussed the findings and recommendations of a recent United Nations report on the treatment of conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and strategized on the best way forward.

The head of an appellate court, Mohammad Zahir Osmani, framed the discussion by expressing concern about conditions detainees face in Afghanistan, where ill-treatment and lack of legal representation have been well documented.

Another participant, lawyer Obaidulla Karimi, stressed that the rights of suspects and the accused are detailed in Afghanistan’s constitution, which prohibits “punishment contrary to human dignity.”

Other participants offered similar views as they discussed ways to improve coordination among their respective organisations.

Earlier this year, in its report on the treatment of conflict-related detainees in Afghan custody, the United Nations noted a reduction in the number of cases of torture in Afghanistan since 2016, but expressed concern about the high number of detainees who are still victims of ill-treatment.

The report’s findings – based on interviews with 618 detainees held in 77 facilities in 28 provinces across the country between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2018 – indicated that nearly one-third of conflict-related detainees provided credible accounts of having been tortured or ill-treated.

Published jointly by UNAMA and the UN Human Rights Office in April  2019, the report recommended implementation of procedural safeguards as enshrined in international human rights principles.

As a follow-on to the report on detainees in Afghan custody, in May 2019 UNAMA publicly expressed grave concern about credible accounts of Taliban subjecting detainees to ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, as well as serious allegations that some detainees were killed.

Participants at the Baghlan symposium, in closing, jointly stressed the importance of complying with Afghan and international law to implement procedural safeguards to uphold the rights of detainees. They agreed to meet again to carry the conversion forward and to strengthen their coordination.

Organised by UNAMA’s Pul-e-Khumri field office, the event was covered by local media partner Radio Farhat for broadcast to an audience estimated at 200,000 people in and around Pul-e-Khumri.

UNAMA works with various institutions and individuals, including media outlets, religious leaders, provincial councils, youth groups and women to create platforms – using radio, social media, and television – for Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.

In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.