The United Nations human rights chief today warned that recent appointments to Afghanistan's top human rights body compromise its independence and effectiveness and undermine its high standing with the public and international partners.
On 16 June, after more than 18 months' delay, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appointed five new commissioners to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and retained four other serving commissioners, including its chairperson, Sima Samar.
A news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) noted that, under the AIHRC's founding law, commissioners are required to have a good reputation, demonstrate independence, enjoy popular trust and have a commitment to human rights. They should also not belong to any political party during their term of office.
“Serious concerns have been raised whether the new commissioners meet these important eligibility standards,” said High Commissioner Navi Pillay. “I am alarmed by statements of civil society leaders about the recent appointments. All Afghan people and civil society must have full confidence in the AIHRC if it is to function effectively.”
She stressed that national human rights institutions are of crucial importance in monitoring and protecting human rights. Since 2002, the AIHRC has played an “absolutely critical, frontline role” in defending human rights in Afghanistan, she stated.
“With the accelerating transition in Afghanistan, this vital national institution will assume an even greater importance. Now is not the time to weaken or undermine it, but to strengthen it and ensure its members are of the highest integrity and are committed to human rights,” she said.
Ms. Pillay also stressed the importance of national human rights institutions complying with international standards called the “Paris Principles,” which set out best practice for such institutions to function independently and effectively.
The Principles require that commissioners are widely recognized as independent, expert in human rights and ensure the pluralist representation of civil society and are chosen in a participatory, transparent and consultative selection process with the extensive involvement of civil society.
She urged the Government to reconsider the recent appointments and re-open the selection process in line with the requirements of the AIHRC law and the Paris Principles.