Children held in detention in Afghanistan continue to face violations of their rights, including maltreatment and lack of access to education and health services, according to a United Nations-backed study which highlights the need to ensure better protection for young people in conflict with the law.
“A punitive and retributive approach to juvenile justice seems to be still predominant in Afghanistan,” the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said of the study, which was carried out by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission with help from the agency and which was released yesterday in the capital, Kabul.
UNICEF’s Representative in Afghanistan, Catherine Mbengue, said the study – which contains data gathered from 22 provinces over a one-year period – offered an opportunity to evaluate the existing services for children in conflict with the law.
Among other recommendations, the study urges full implementation of the Juvenile Code adopted by the Government in 2005, which incorporates the basic principles of juvenile justice found in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Afghanistan is a State party.
UNICEF has been supporting the Government’s efforts to implement the Code through awareness-raising and training among law enforcement and judicial bodies.
“UNICEF strongly advocates measures to prevent and reduce detention or imprisonment of children and prevention programmes involving communities and children at risk,” said Ms. Mbengue.
“We need to invest more to prevent children coming into conflict with the law while we continue to assist children already in detention,” she noted.
UNICEF and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission will be holding a workshop for judicial officials to discuss the recommendations of the study in an effort to improve the situation of detained children within the Afghan justice system.
Information for the study was gathered from Kabul, Kapisa, Parwan, Logar, Ghazni, Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, Takhar, Baghlan, Kunduz, Samangan, Balkh, Herat, Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul, Urozgan, Bamiyan, Sari Pool, Panjshir, and Daikundi.
Meanwhile, the top UN humanitarian official has arrived in Kabul today for a five-day visit, during which he is scheduled to travel to several parts of the country to meet a variety of people, including returnees, who face hardship as a result of conflict and natural disasters, including severe winters and crop failure.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes will also be meeting with senior Afghan officials and representatives from both the Afghan military and those from the multi-national forces deployed in the country, during which he is expected to raise the issues of humanitarian access and protection of civilians.
Mr. Holmes, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, will also hold discussions with senior officials of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), UN agencies, the Afghan Red Crescent, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and representatives from the donor community.
Talks with the Government and UN agencies will also focus on the global food crisis, as Afghanistan is one of the countries severely affected by the recent surge in prices of basic commodities such as wheat and rice. A special task force on food security consisting of the Government, the UN and other development agencies has already been set up.