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Afghanistan: UN welcomes release of 20 women prisoners

Afghanistan: UN welcomes release of 20 women prisoners

The United Nations has welcomed a recent decree issued by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to pardon 20 women who were held in a Kabul prison on charges of committing minor crimes.

“The UN has been supporting efforts of the Transitional Authority to examine the human rights situation of prisoners, in particular of women, and welcomes the expected release of this first batch of women prisoners,” Manoel de Almeida e Silva, a spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said at a press briefing yesterday in Kabul. The move by President Karzai was in conjunction with the month of Ramadan, he added.

A report earlier this year by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, Kamal Hussein, drew attention to the plight of female prisoners being detained for violating social codes, Mr. de Almeida e Silva said, noting that they have been accused of moral crimes such as prostitution, adultery and running away with another man, as well as property crime.

The female prisoners were due to be released on Saturday but a last-minute decision by the Ministry of Interior to further investigate the crimes of one of the prisoners delayed the release of the group until Sunday morning, the spokesman said. A UNAMA team of human rights officers was expected at the prison to await the release of the 20 women.

A commission comprised of the Ministry of Interior and Kabul prison authority has also recommended the release of another 13 female prisoners and is studying the release of 140 men in the coming weeks. There are currently 35 women in Kabul prison, whose sentences vary from 5 months to 2 years.

“The situation of women is quite challenging,” Mr. de Almeida e Silva said. “Lacking medical care and high hygiene standards, some cells were found to have mice and rats. The situation of women prisoners with children is particularly worrying, as there are no facilities for childcare.”