The perpetrators of this week’s brutal murder of four aid workers supporting education projects in Afghanistan must not go unpunished, an independent United Nations human rights expert said today.
“There must be an end to impunity for those who attack schools, students and educators,” the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Vernor Muñoz Villalobos, said in a statement issued in Geneva.
Three female international aid workers and their Afghan colleague were killed after their vehicle, belonging to the United States-based International Rescue Committee, was attacked by gunmen while travelling from Kabul to Logar.
Mr. Villalobos said the incident “highlights starkly the extreme risks faced by all those promoting the right to education in conflict areas and the urgent need for the international community, and all those involved in this and similar conflicts, to put a stop to such attacks.”
The Taliban, which has claimed responsibility for the attack, “do not simply fail to value education: they deliberately target it,” the Special Rapporteur noted.
“Their attacks on schools, teachers and others working on education are systematic, not random. They are part of a deliberate attack on human rights, on equality for women and on any attempt by their fellow citizens to control their own destiny,” he stated.
Mr. Villalobos paid tribute to Jackie Kirk, whom he called “a friend, a colleague and a great champion of the right to education” and her IRC colleagues – Shirley Case, Nicole Dial and Mohammad Aimal – who were “dedicated human rights workers, trying to ensure that this generation of Afghan children would not be denied an education, like so many of their parents.”
“The murder of Jackie Kirk and her colleagues is a crime, a tragedy and a terrible loss for Afghanistan,” he stressed.
Wednesday’s incident was the latest and most deadly single attack against the Afghan aid community this year, according to the UN. Already 19 aid workers have been killed in 2008, surpassing the total number of lives lost in 2007.