(New York) - The Afghan government and international donors should place human rights at the center of discussions at the June 12 donors’ conference in Paris, Human Rights Watch said in a public letter today.

Human Rights Watch identified women’s rights, freedom of expression, impunity, transitional justice, judicial reform, and abolition of the death penalty as among the key issues in Afghanistan requiring serious attention and reform.

“The Paris conference will take place at a time when the Afghan government is increasingly unpopular because of abuses, corruption and lack of security,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “If the donors just offer more of the same and ignore the need for systemic reform, including a commitment to take on warlords and address impunity, then the situation in Afghanistan is likely to deteriorate.”

In the past six years, cooperation between the Afghan government and international donors, such as the United States and the European Union, has spurred positive developments, such as significant increases in primary school enrollment rates and the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections. However, amidst an ongoing civil war, Afghanistan remains mired in insecurity, poverty, widespread human rights abuses, and impunity, since the government does not prosecute perpetrators of abuses who have protection from government officials, parliamentarians or warlords. Much more investment and work are required before the international community fulfills the multiple commitments it has made to assist Afghanistan to achieve sustainable development, local and regional security, and respect for human rights.

In preparation for the Paris meeting, Afghan and international groups and interested individuals developed a series of thoughtful recommendations on human rights, which they submitted to the Afghan government and donors. Human Rights Watch urged participants at the Paris conference to take these recommendations very seriously as they develop plans and policies.

“It is critical that Afghan civil society is treated as an integral and indispensable partner in Afghanistan’s reconstruction,” said Adams. “We urge the government and donor countries to ensure the full and genuine participation of Afghan civil society, including the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, in high-level policy meetings and deliberations.”