Afghanistan lagging behind in human rights treatment, UN expert finds

25 October 2004

While Afghanistan has made great progress since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, "gross violations of fundamental human rights" continue, from extrajudicial executions to inhuman detention to the frequent abuse or assault of women and girls, a United Nations expert says in his latest report to the General Assembly.

Prof. Cherif Bassiouni, the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, says the "key to understanding these violations" is the insecurity caused by the continuing military power of warlords and local commanders and the increasing economic power of those involved in heroin production and trade.

"The absence of security has a direct and significant impact on all human rights," the report states, adding that the number of foreign troops should be increased substantially to deter violence and human rights abuses.

The report follows the Expert's visit in August, when he met with interim President Hamid Karzai, several government ministers and senior members of the judiciary and legal profession.

Professor Bassiouni says he is particularly concerned by the physical sanitary and health conditions at Pol-e Charkhi prison, where 734 Pakistanis and Afghans were illegally detained for 30 months until Mr. Karzai last month acceded to the envoy's request to release them.

Conditions at Pol-e Charkhi must be improved to meet UN minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners, he states, while he also calls on the Government to release all female prisoners detained "for actions that do not constitute crimes under Afghan law."

The report makes 30 recommendations in total, including a call for the release of all individuals who have been held for lengthy periods with charge unless the Government can provide a fair and speedy trial.

Other recommendations include:

The establishment of a national monitoring body to investigate prison conditions.The passage of a government decree that outlaws the transfer of young girls in marriage as payment of "blood money" and as a method of settling family debts.Tougher measures to tackle the widespread practices of child abduction and child trafficking.Greater government control over the school curriculum, especially in private religious schools, and enhanced education for women and girls.More active efforts to reduce opium poppy cultivation and the resulting heroin trade.