Latest Update: 31 March 2013
We welcomed statements during the last three months by the President and Foreign Minister of Afghanistan reaffirming their commitment to the promotion of human rights. There is a growing sense of determination among Afghan civil society groups to defend the gains made over the last decade. However Afghanistan’s young and somewhat fragile institutions still offer insufficient protection to the most vulnerable. The UK and other leading members of the international community have provided capacity building assistance, and will continue to do so. The last three months has seen a particular focus on putting in place the conditions for a credible, inclusive and transparent election in 2014.
Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister for human rights and Minister with responsibility for Afghanistan, paid her second visit to Afghanistan from 4 – 6 March. In all her meetings the Minister stressed the importance of consolidating progress made over the last ten years on human rights, including women’s rights. She held meetings with the Afghan Government and wider Afghan authorities, leading female parliamentarians, young future Afghan leaders and other representatives of civil society. In Helmand she visited the provincial police headquarters and met female police officers who are contributing to the provision of security in their community. In Kabul she held discussions on the forthcoming elections with opposition leaders and the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, Fazel Ahmad Manawi, highlighting the importance of a credible, inclusive and transparent electoral process in 2014. She raised women’s rights with the Afghan Foreign Minister, Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, who offered assurances on the Afghan Government’s commitment to ensuring that progress made on women’s rights is not lost. In her discussions with women in positions of leadership such as Fawzia Koofi MP, Sima Samar of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and Habiba Sorabi, the Governor of Bamiyan, the Minister was encouraged to hear that some progress has been made on women’s rights, but noted that more needed to be done to achieve a cultural change in attitudes towards women and to address violence against women and children.
On 4 March the Secretary of State for Development, Justine Greening, set out her commitment to make tackling violence against women a greater strategic priority in the Afghanistan country plan, which will be refreshed later this year.
At a reception in the Afghan Embassy in London hosted by the Afghan Ambassador Mohammad Daud Yaar to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, Baroness Warsi gave a speech on the vital role of women and girls in Afghanistan. She reaffirmed the UK’s long term commitment to Afghan women, recognised the achievements of women in Afghanistan over the last decade and emphasised the essential role of women in securing a stable and prosperous future for Afghanistan.
We were pleased that in his speech at Georgetown University in January President Karzai included a clear statement that any political settlement in Afghanistan must ensure the continuing presence of women in politics and of girls in schools. Foreign Minister Rassoul reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, and in particular the rights of women, girls and children in his statement at the 22nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 25 February. Minister Rassoul made clear Afghanistan’s support for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security and confirmed that the Afghan National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 will be launched in early 2014.
Preparations for the 2014 elections have continued. A UN Needs Assessment Mission (UNAMA) visited Kabul in January for the second phase of fieldwork to assess the most appropriate forms of UN electoral support in line with UNAMA’s mandate to improve the sustainability, integrity and inclusiveness of the election. The Afghan authorities have also reached a decision on voter registration, with plans to use existing voter cards and conduct a limited registration campaign designed to ensure high levels of participation.
The UNAMA report on “The treatment of conflict related detainees in Afghan custody – one year on” issued on 20 January. We were disappointed that despite the considerable training and mentoring support provided by the UK and the rest of the International Community UNAMA found only a slight improvement in some areas since October 2011 and was critical of the standard of human rights compliance in Afghan detention facilities. We welcomed President Karzai’s decision to assign a delegation to investigate its findings and his instruction that its recommendations be implemented by his government and that those found guilty of mistreatment be brought to justice.
The UNAMA report on “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict” issued on 19 February. It found that there were 7559 civilian casualties (2754 deaths and 4805 injuries) in Afghanistan in 2012, 12% fewer than in 2011. The report attributed 6131 (or 81%) of the civilian casualties to the insurgency, many caused by indiscriminate attacks including the use of improvised explosive devices. This is 9% more than in 2011. Protecting the Afghan civilian population is an important part of our military strategy in Afghanistan. The International Security Assistance Force has made considerable efforts to minimise civilian casualties and to ensure that any incidents involving civilians are properly investigated.
On 3 March the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) issued their report “Citizens’ Access to Justice” monitoring the implementation of Presidential Decree 45 of July 2012. Decree 45 is concerned with good governance and anti-corruption measures within the Afghan government. The AIHRC say that the Decree has not yet had a significant impact on the process of law enforcement and the implementation of justice, including for human rights violations. Their report includes a number of recommendations to address issues surrounding the rule of law and reform of the country’s judicial systems.