UN human rights expert urges steps to prevent security vacuum in Afghanistan

UN human rights expert urges steps to prevent security vacuum in Afghanistan

Seeking to prevent a dangerous and destabilizing security vacuum in a post-Taliban Afghanistan, a United Nations human rights expert has outlined a series of measures geared towards protecting the country's people.

"As the possibility of the existing regime losing control becomes imminent, certain critical steps need to be taken as a matter of the utmost urgency to prevent a vacuum in which men, women and children could be exposed to the risk to their lives and property resulting from a breakdown of law and order and from possible massacres, as had happened in the past when territory changed hands," writes Kamal Hossain, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, in a report released today. The document is an addendum to an in-depth report on the same subject prepared in August.

The report also recommends the establishment of internal security arrangements in areas over which the existing regime loses control "in order to prevent massacres and protect the life and property of citizens." In addition, the expert says access should be provided to media, including the possible establishment of a UN-sponsored radio station to give voice to Afghan people. "This would harness the energies of Afghans in building consensus and mobilizing opinion in support of any political plan which emerges," he writes.

The report notes that overall, while the events of 11 September and their aftermath have in certain critical areas exacerbated the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, they have also given rise to "opportunity and space for the Afghan people to become active participants in bringing about fundamental change."

As for the global response to the terror attacks against the United States, the Special Rapporteur calls on the international coalition to review the conduct of its military operations so as to strictly comply with international humanitarian law. "Appropriate measures must be taken immediately to prevent damage to civilian lives and property and disruption in the delivery of humanitarian assistance," he says.