For today’s election, UN Watch opposes Afghanistan’s candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council. Click here for full report.

Afghanistan’s Human Rights Record

Afghanistan commits serious human rights violations, including:

  • Indiscriminate attacks on civilians by armed groups
  • Killing of government officials by armed groups
  • Torture and abuse of detainees by government forces
  • Disregard for the rule of law
  • Lack of accountability for human rights abusers
  • Violence and discrimination against women and girls
  • Extrajudicial killings
  • Poor prison conditions
  • Arbitrary arrest and detention
  • Judicial corruption and ineffectiveness
  • Restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, religion
  • Corruption
  • Underage and forced marriage
  • Abuse of children
  • Trafficking in persons
  • Discrimination against persons with disabilities­­­­­
  • Discrimination against ethnic minorities
  • Discrimination against LGBT
  • Abuse of worker’s rights

Discussion

Afghanistan is a country that has been in a continuous state of war since 1979. Following April 2014 presidential elections beset by allegations of fraud, the U.S. brokered a power-sharing agreement between the two main rivals—Aahraf Ghani Ahmadzai (“Ghani”) and Abdullah Abdullah.[1] However, the two never entered into a meaningful partnership, each continuing to vie for power and each staffing government posts with his own supporters, mainly based on ethnic grounds.[2]

The government is characterized by widescale corruption and impunity. For example, Afghanistan has used foreign aid money to support local militias that commit human rights abuses.[3] In March this year, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan, John F. Sopko, criticized the situation, complaining that corruption and mismanagement were the main reasons for the military failure in the country.[4] This corruption has played into the hands of the Taliban, which now controls some 40% of the country, and has frustrated democracy.[5]

Now, three years into the National Unity Government, Afghanis frustrated by the continuing lack of peace and security are already calling for change.[6] In June 2017, more than 1,000 Afghani citizens took to the streets in protest, following deadly terrorist attacks which killed close to 1,000 civilians in a span of just four days. Afghani police shot at the demonstrators, killing six.[7] After these events, the UN      representative in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, warned the Security Council: “Without enhanced efforts by the National Unity Government to increase political inclusiveness, strengthen accountability and improve the Government’s credibility, particularly in the security sector, we are likely to face more crises in an increasingly fragile environment.”[8]

In 2016, thousands of Afghani civilians were killed in terror attacks by the Taliban, the Islamic State and others, and more than 500,000 were internally displaced during the year.[9] The United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that in the month of October 2016 alone, 213,000 people were displaced due to the fighting.[10]

Pro-government forces were responsible for approximately 23% of the more than 8,000 civilian casualties (death and injury) in the first nine months of 2016. In one incident in February 2016, men dressed as Afghani soldiers stormed a health clinic in a Taliban controlled area, killing two patients and a 15 year-old care-giver.[11]

Afghan police and security forces were implicated in several cases of extrajudicial killing and forced disappearances. In one case in November 2016, First Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum kidnapped an Uzbek tribal elder and political rival and held him for a number of days during which he was beaten and tortured.[12]

In addition, local NGOs reported excessive use of force and torture by Afghani police and security officials, including widespread sexual abuse and exploitation of children.[13]

Journalists have been targeted by all sides. According to Human Rights Watch, most of the violence against journalists in 2016 was committed by government and pro-government actors. In August 2016, President Ghani’s security detail beat nine journalists.[14] Amnesty International reported that there were more than 100 cases of attacks on journalists and media workers in the first nine months of 2016.[15]

The situation of women in Afghanistan is especially bleak. They suffer from rape, domestic violence, honor killing, acid attacks, underage forced marriage and general discrimination. The Afghani justice system fails to adequately protect women, sometimes caving in to family pressure or bribery. Female victims are often subjected to virginity tests and/or accused of crimes such as adultery and fornication. In many cases female victims end up in prison due to lack of shelters or because running away is treated as a moral crime. According to statistics cited by the U.S. State Department, more than half of female prisoners in Afghanistan are incarcerated for moral crimes.[16]

In Ghor, one of Afghan’s deadliest provinces for women, there have been 118 registered cases of violence against women so far this year, but not a single suspect has been arrested. Government security forces claim they can do nothing because bringing the perpetrators to justice will just increase the Taliban’s power in the province.[17]

U.N. Voting Record

Negative: At the General Assembly, Afghanistan backed human rights abusers through a resolution denying the right to sanction such regimes, and by voting to delay the work of the Special Rapporteur on violence against LGBT. Afghanistan also voted against a General Assembly resolution that spoke out for human rights victims in Iran.

[1] “Afghanistan 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. Department of State, 2017, p. 28, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265530.

[2] Ayesha Tanzeem, “International Crisis Group Calls Afghan Government ‘Shaky,’” Voice of America, April 10, 2017, available at https://www.voanews.com/a/inernational-crisis-group-calls-afghan-government-shaky/3803905.html.

[3] Id.; Jamil Danish, “Afghanis corruption epidemic is wasting billions in aid,” The Guardian, Nov. 3, 2016, available at https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/nov/03/afghanistans-corruption-epidemic-is-wasting-billions-in-aid; Sune Engel Rasmussen, “Afghanistan funds abusive militias as US military ‘ignores’ situation, officials say,” The Guardian, Dec. 26, 2016, available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/26/afghanistan-us-military-militia-funding-human-rights; “Afghanistan 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. Department of State, 2017, pp. 30-31, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265530.

[4] Sharif Walid, “Afghan generals face charges in crackdown on military corruption,” Washington Post, March 29, 2017, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/afghan-generals-face-charges-in-crackdown-on-military-corruption/2017/03/29/9d6c0dca-1480-11e7-bb16-269934184168_story.html?utm_term=.6c41c69b706d.

[5] Beth McKernan, “Kabul attack: Police shoot hundreds of protesters calling for better security in Afghanistan,” The Independent, June 2, 2017, available at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/kabul-attack-latest-police-shoot-hundreds-protesters-calling-better-security-afghanistan-goverment-a7768856.html.

[6] Tabish Forugh, “Afghanistan’s Uprising for Change: Time to Shatter Ghani’s Delusion,” The Diplomat, June 27, 2017, available at http://thediplomat.com/2017/06/afghanistans-uprising-for-change-time-to-shatter-ghanis-delusion/.

[7] Id.; Beth McKernan, “Kabul attack: Police shoot hundreds of protesters calling for better security in Afghanistan,” The Independent, June 2, 2017, available at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/kabul-attack-latest-police-shoot-hundreds-protesters-calling-better-security-afghanistan-goverment-a7768856.html.

[8] “Afghanistan’s Government Must Work to Improve Trust in Security Sector amid Rising Tensions, Terrorist Attacks, Special Representative Tells Security Council,” United Nations, June 21, 2017, available at https://www.un.org/press/en/2017/sc12882.doc.htm.

[9] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017, Afghanistan country chapter, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/afghanistan.

[10] Jelena Bjelica, “Over Half a Million Afghans Flee Conflict in 2016: A look at the IDP statistics,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, Dec. 28, 2016, available at http://reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/over-half-million-afghans-flee-conflict-2016-look-idp-statistics.

[11] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017, Afghanistan country chapter, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/afghanistan; Amnesty International 2016/2017 Report, Afghanistan, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/afghanistan/report-afghanistan/.

[12] “Afghanistan 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. Department of State, 2017, pp. 2-3, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265530.

[13] Id. pp. 3-4.

[14] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017, Afghanistan country chapter, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/afghanistan.

[15] Amnesty International 2016/2017 Report, Afghanistan, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/afghanistan/report-afghanistan/.

[16] “Afghanistan 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. Department of State, 2017, pp. 33-40, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265530.

[17] Mujib Mashal and Zahra Nader, “No Justice, ‘No Value’ for Women in a Lawless Afghan Province,” New York Times, July 8, 2017, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/08/world/asia/afghanistan-women-honor-killings.html?mcubz=0.

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