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Afghanistan: AI wants human rights protected

Afghanistan: AI wants human rights protected

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Nov 18, 2020 - 13:34

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): A leading watchdog has called upon the global fraternity to remain committed to protecting Afghanistaninfo-icon’s significant yet fragile human rights gains.

Amnesty International issued the call before the Geneva Quadrennial Pledging Conference on Afghanistan, co-hosted by the UN, the Finnish and Afghan governments.

Slated for November 23-24, the event will be attended by representatives of more than 70 countries and international organisations and agencies.

Omar Waraich, head of South Asia at Amnesty International, said: “Afghanistan is at a critical moment. Even as there is talk of peace, violence continues to surge, claiming hundreds of civilian lives.

“The protection of human rights is nowhere on the political agenda, and COVID-19 continues to run rampant in a country with one of the weakest healthinfo-icon systems in the worldinfo-icon.

“Now is not the time for international donors to be scaling down or stepping back,” argued Waraich.

He stressed international funding had been crucial to the limited but important progress witnessed on human rights in Afghanistan over the past two decades, but much more remained to be done.

The AI official believed the Geneva Conference must maintain a focus on human rights objectives to ensure that these advances were not reversed.

“For its part, the Afghan government must demonstrate its ongoing commitment to defending human rights, safeguarding freedom of expression and protecting minority groups.” AI said.

Participants at the Geneva Conference were asked to set objectives and commit funding to key areas, including the rights of womeninfo-icon and girls, conflict and civilian casualties, internally displaced people, human rights defenders and access to justice.

AI noted the situation for women and girls in Afghanistan had vastly improved compared to under the Talibaninfo-icon regime. There are now 3.3 million girls in educationinfo-icon and women are politically, economically and socially engaged.

However, the organisation explained, there remained major obstacles and challenges, including violence against women and the limited participation of women at all levels of government.

Meanwhile, the statement said, two decades of progress on women’s rights are at risk of being compromised through the peace talks.

“The Afghan government and donor partners must build on the hard-won gains made by Afghan women over the past two decades by making clear commitments to support programs to eradicate violence against women, strengthen women’s participation at all levels of government and increase girls’ access to education across the country,” Waraich said.

The conference is a key moment to reassert the central role that human rights must have in a future Afghanistan, according to Waraich, who said:  “Afghan civilians are paying a heavy price in this bloody conflict. The Geneva Conference participants must ensure that the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law is at the centre of the ongoing peace negotiations.

“The conference should also emphasize that there must be accountability for serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed by all sides in the conflict.”

The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Afghanistan continues to rise, with approximately four million people now displaced by conflict. IDPs are living in densely populated camps with limited access to clean water, healthcare, sanitation and employment.

With social distancing impossible in the camps, the situation of IDPs has worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Afghanistan. Living in small rooms with many family members, those testing positive are unable to safely quarantine. IDPs earning through daily labour work have also lost their income due to lockdown measures.

Amnesty International is calling on participants at the Geneva Conference to set objectives and make funding commitments to alleviate the plight of IDPs, through the provision of safe habitation and equal access to basic services.

Human rights defenders

Afghanistan’s brave and active human rights community continued to be threatened, harassed and attacked. Despite promises made by the Afghan government in January, there is no accountable and implementable mechanism in place to protect human rights defenders.

“The Afghan government made a pledge at the start of this year to establish a mechanism to protect human rights defenders, yet activists are still risking life and limb by speaking out.

“The Geneva Conference must push the Afghan government to deliver on its pledge and make a funding commitment to help roll out the mechanism across the country,” said Waraich

Amnesty International urged the Geneva Conference to commit to improving Afghanistan’s judicial system, which must be strengthened to provide immediate support to victims, investigate crimes and bring perpetrators to justice.

 “The Geneva Conference is a key moment to reassert the central role that human rights must have in a future Afghanistan. To achieve this, it must commit to credible and measurable benchmarks to monitor human rights progress and, crucially, make clear to all parties to the peace talks that human rights are non-negotiable,” concluded Waraich.

pr/mud

 

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