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UN welcomes inauguration of Afghanistan's constitutional commission

UN welcomes inauguration of Afghanistan's constitutional commission

Hailing the achievement of another political milestone in Afghanistan's transition to democracy, the United Nations today renewed its pledge of full support for the process.

"The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) wholeheartedly welcomes the inauguration yesterday of the Constitutional Review Commission," spokesman David Singh said in a statement on behalf of UNAMA chief Lakhdar Brahimi.

The Commission's mandate is to conduct public consultations throughout the country and abroad in order to ascertain the aspirations of Afghans with regard to their future constitution – a task the spokesman described as "historic and challenging." Based on the results of this effort, the 35-member body will review the work of the Drafting Commission and prepare the Draft Constitution to be submitted to the Constitutional Loya Jirga tribal council in October.

"The Mission acknowledges the efforts of the Islamic Transitional Administration of Afghanistan to ensure that the Commission represents the regional, ethnic, professional and religious diversity of the Afghan nation and the full participation of women in the constitution-making process," said Mr. Singh, highlighting the fact that the Commission has staff deployed in all Afghan provinces as well as in Iran and Pakistan to prepare the ground for the public consultation scheduled to start in late May.

"The international community is honoured to provide assistance for this process," said the spokesman. "We are aware of the difficulties the 35 commissioners will face over the next five months," he added. "But this process can make a unique contribution not only to the building of a more representative state but also to the forging of stronger national unity."

Also today, UNAMA and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) issued a joint statement condemning "in the strongest possible terms" those who perpetrated human rights abuses – and their commanders – during violent clashes in the Bala Murghab District of Badghis province.

"We urge the Governor of Badghis and the local police to exercise all possible influence to end these violations; to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice; as well as to take all other necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of similar events," the statement said, stressing that those who were wounded and those whose relatives were killed or had houses and property looted or destroyed must receive adequate compensation.

UNAMA and the AIHRC also urged the Central Government to "pay attention to the civilian population of the area and to its basic needs; as well as to take concrete measures to correct both short- and long-term oppressive socioeconomic practices."

The joint assessment, carried out from 16 to 20 April, drew information from village elders and local human rights activists which pointed to "extremely serious violations of human rights" before and during the recent armed conflict. According to those reports, in Akazi village, 38 civilians died while 761 homes and 21 shops were looted.

Reports further state that a coalition of local factions pursuing Juma Khan and his troops executed 26 individuals whose bodies were found with their hands tied behind their backs. According to interlocutors, there was an already established pattern of human rights violations in Bala Murghab prior to the recent fighting which may have even triggered the conflict. Those refusing to comply with extortionist demands were "labeled as Taliban."

The AIHRC and UNAMA observed "gross neglect" of the local population, including extremely high levels of illiteracy and a total absence of infrastructure as well as qualified teachers. "The population does not complain to the local authorities out of fear that this would only exacerbate their abusive behaviour," said the AIHRC and UNAMA, pledging continued investigation of the human rights violations in Badghis.