UN report calls for end to arbitrary detention in Afghanistan
26 March 2009 - A new United Nations report, revealing that Afghans are often detained without lawful reason, recommends a range of changes to laws and procedures of the criminal justice system in the country.
Too frequently, detainees do not have access to a lawyer, are unable to challenge the legality of their detention before an impartial judge, and do not enjoy the presumption of innocence before being tried in a lawful court, according to the report released today by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“No Afghan should be detained arbitrarily; every Afghan has a right to justice and dignity,” Norah Niland, UNAMA’s top human rights official and OHCHR representative in Afghanistan, said on the release of the report.
“Ensuring that all detentions are lawful is vital to instilling public confidence in the judiciary and government institutions as well as in promoting the rule of law,” she added.
A study of some 2,000 cases between 2006 and 2008 found that unlawful detentions are most often the result of poor awareness and understanding of the law and the rights of detainees, along with procedures and a legal framework that are inadequate to safeguard the those rights.
Some were caused, in addition, by corruption, abuse of power, and disregard for the law by responsible authorities, the study shows.
Recommendations include legislation reform and introduction of codes of conduct, improved training and capacity-building for law enforcement officials and the judiciary, and greater access of detained persons to legal representation.
Entitled “Arbitrary Detention in Afghanistan: A Call to Action,” the two-volume report is part of a larger effort by the UN to support the Government of Afghanistan, particularly the judiciary, to address the problem, UNAMA said.
“I am confident that the Government and judiciary, with the support of international partners, will find the report’s practical recommendations useful in formulating better laws, procedures and training aimed at combating the problem of arbitrary detention,” Ms. Niland said.