Human Rights Watch welcomes the many significant points in the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch values the importance of the work delivered on the ground by UNAMA and the OHCHR.
We take this opportunity to emphasize a few key issues of great importance to the future of human rights in Afghanistan:
1) Declining international aid and political engagement: Efforts to engage the Taliban in negotiations have highlighted the need for any political settlement to include effective mechanisms to ensure respect for human rights. But this is not the only the human rights concern related to an international military drawdown. As nations withdraw troops from Afghanistan, they are also diminishing their political engagement and aid investments. Advances in human rights in Afghanistan over the last 10 years have relied heavily on international pressure and aid. Without aid supporting essential services, gains in literacy and maternal mortality could be rapidly reversed. Without political pressure, commitment to human rights by the Afghan government, already weak, could easily be abandoned. The international community needs to make a long-term commitment, separate from any military commitment, to supporting human rights in Afghanistan politically and financially.
2) Inclusive decision-making process: The full participation of civil society organizations and women in all processes that lead to decisions about the future of Afghanistan is an absolute necessity. This includes negotiations with the Taliban, but should also include events like the NATO Summit taking place in May. No parallel consultation process is an acceptable alternative. Afghanistan and its partners need to be reminded of the commitments the international community made in this regard under Security Council Resolution 1325.
3) Accountable security forces: In September 2011, Human Rights Watch published a report, “Just Don’t Call It a Militia.” This report documents abuses by government-backed militias and the US government-created Afghan Local Police and highlights serious problems with vetting, control, and accountability of these forces. These problems have not been addressed, and there is increasing risk that in an effort to reduce the costs of Afghan security forces there will be a reliance on these “cheaper” but less accountable forces. Urgent steps should be taken to strengthen accountability of all security forces, including government-supported militias and the Afghan Local Police.
4) Violence against women and “moral crimes”: On 28 March, Human Rights Watch will release a report on the imprisonment of women and girls for “moral crimes” in Afghanistan. This report documents the frequent prosecution of women who flee abuse in the home, only to be accused of moral crimes by their abusers. The women are often sentenced to long prison terms and face danger from their families upon release. At the same time their abusers walk free, in spite of the 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which made forced marriage, underage marriage and domestic violence crimes. The Afghan government should take immediate steps to increase the enforcement of Violence Against Women law and to end wrongful imprisonment of women for moral crimes. The international community should support this effort.
In conclusion, the human rights situation in Afghanistan is very fragile and has the potential to deteriorate dramatically in the coming years. In recognition of this emergency, the Human Rights Council should give more attention in its program of work to the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, by requesting the holding of an annual interactive dialogue under agenda item 10 on the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.