Category: Afghanistan

Country Profile: Afghanistan

Introduction

Afghanistan has never been a member of the Human Rights Council but has sponsored and co-sponsored thematic and country-specific resolutions, and participated in the Universal Periodic Review.

Thematic Issues

Afghanistan has sponsored and co-sponsored resolutions on climate change, protection of the family, technical cooperation and capacity-building, corruption, education, sport, the right to development, religion and human rights and traditional values.

Freedom of Assembly and of Association

Afghanistan has not actively engaged on resolutions on freedom of assembly and of association.

Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Afghanistan has not been active in discussions on freedom of opinion and expression.

Human Rights Defenders

Afghanistan has not actively engaged on resolutions on human rights defenders.

Country Specific Issues

Majority of resolutions that Afghanistan has engaged with have been country specific. Afghanistan has sponsored 48 and co-sponsored 9 country specific resolutions at the Council. 46 of the resolutions sponsored have been on the Middle East, specifically Palestine, the Syria Golan and Lebanon. The fact that a major focus has been placed on sponsoring and co-sponsoring progressive resolutions on Palestine, the Syrian Golan and Lebanon shows that Afghanistan maintains solidarity with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Universal Periodic Review

During the 2nd cycle of the UPR, Afghanistan was reviewed on the 27th of January 2014. Afghanistan accepted 189 recommendations of 224 and noted 35.

Recommendations received focused broadly upon the same categories as during its first cycle. However, states made fewer recommendations with regard to freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of the press. This is due in part to the fact that the new media law was enacted shortly after the first UPR. The law was passed by parliament after extensive discussions with journalists and human rights groups. States made more recommendations on the independent human rights commission, calling for more funds to be allocated, allowing the commission to function in a more independent manner.

As a recommending state, Afghanistan made recommendations broadly focused on the following issues: rights of the child, women’s rights, education, national human rights commission and justice. The country has chosen to focus on issues that are applicable domestically and has not shied away from actively engaging with those issues at the UPR, even though such an approach may leave it open to scrutiny of its own human rights record. Recommendations on civil society, human rights defenders, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of association and assembly are however noticeably lacking.

Afghanistan sponsors two resolutions at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council

By Émile Kinley-Gauthier, FORUM-ASIA

During this session, Afghanistan was only discussed twice; once as a minor mention in the context of Syria, and once by three NGOS during the General Debate on racism and racial discrimination.

Apart from being relatively active on Item 6 UPR (Afghanistan delivered statements at the adoption of the UPR outcomes of Ireland, Sudan, Hungary and Tajikistan) Afghanistan largely remained silent, choosing to deliver only one additional statement, during the General Debate following the High Commissioner’s update. This statement focused on the use of terrorism as a policy by some States to influence other countries. In this regard, Afghanistan called for an analysis of the sources of financing of terrorist networks operating on its territory.

Afghanistan chose to sponsor the resolution on NHRIs (A/HRC/RES/33/15), keeping with its previous sponsorship of a resolution of the same nature at the 27th session. In addition, the State sponsored a resolution on the protection of cultural heritage (A/HRC/RES/33/20) and co-sponsored another one on transitional justice (A/HRC/RES/33/19).

Afghanistan: gross human rights violations deplored at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council

By Émile Kinley-Gauthier, FORUM-ASIA

The High Commissioner deplored the constant increase in attacks on civilians and on judicial personnel in Afghanistan at the opening of the session. In addressing the Council, Afghanistan did not deny these claims. Rather, it provided detailed statistics on the casualties and blamed terrorist networks for undoing hard-earned gains in the field of human rights made in the last fifteen years. This argument was repeated during two additional statements, on the rights of migrants and on violence against women, by Afghanistan at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council.

Although terrorist networks operating in the country represent a serious impediment to the realisation of human rights, it is also true that more efforts from the State are needed in this regard. Wide-scale gross human rights violations are more often than not committed in total impunity. Human rights defenders and journalists are regularly detained arbitrarily or harassed.

In his report, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association expressed grave concern at deadly attacks executed against members of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). This attack appears to be an act of retaliation for the human rights work of the members and had the potential to have a chilling effect on other activists in the country. The Government of Afghanistan did not answer the communication of the Special Rapporteur regarding this attack. This total disregard of the communication though did not stop Afghanistan from co-sponsoring a resolution on freedom of association (A/HRC/32/L.32) at the end of the session.

Afghanistan also sponsored a resolution titled Protection of the family: the role of the family in supporting the protection and promotion of human rights of persons with disabilities (A/HRC/32/L.35) and co-sponsored two additional resolutions on youth and human rights (A/HRC/32/L.1) and on internally displaced persons (A/HRC/32/L.13).

Crippling conflict related-violence in Afghanistan deplored at the 31st session of the Human Rights Council

By Émile Kinley-Gauthier, FORUM-ASIA

Afghanistan was discussed at the 31st session of the Human Rights Council in the context of the report on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and on the achievements of technical assistance in the field of human rights in 2015. The report revealed concerning statistics on civilians casualties: 3234 civilians killed and 6,935 injured between 1 January and 30 November 2015; the highest number since 2009. In addition, 62 attacks against hospitals and health personnel – including  a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz city on 3 October – were recorded.

Despite a brief acknowledgement of the need for improvement on the government’s part, the Afghan delegation mostly imputed abuses of human rights in the country to the Taliban insurgency and the ensuing insecurity. The report however highlighted the issue of accountability an area that Afghan authorities needed to improve. Remedying to the long-standing culture of impunity could prevent and reduce the occurrence of gross human rights violations in the country. The High Commissioner also addressed this concern in his update to the Council, saying that whether the prolonged conflict was the result of “deliberate targeting or systemic incompetence, every single attack on civilians and protected civilian objects must be fully, transparently and independently investigated.” The report did commend some positive developments though, notably the adoption of a national plans of action in the areas of women’s rights, peace and security, and the prevention of torture.

Other topics related to Afghanistan were raised a number of times throughout the Council, including violence against women and children and the importance of human rights defenders in the protection of human rights and terrorism. Afghanistan also delivered statements during the UPR adoption of Lebanon, Austria, Nepal, Australia and Oman.

Afghanistan did not participate in the sponsorship of any resolutions at the 31st session, and only engaged in the co-sponsorship of one resolution: The role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights (A/HRC/RES/31/14).