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Afghanistan: Authorities commit to protect human rights

Afghan authorities today made a public commitment to establish a protection mechanism for human rights defenders, in a move welcomed by Amnesty International and Afghanistan’s human rights community.

At the event, 32 human rights organisations from across Afghanistan presented a joint strategy for the establishment of a protection mechanism for human rights defenders in an increasingly dangerous situation where they face attacks from both state and non-state actors.

The joint strategy outlines how the Afghan government and the international community can establish a protection mechanism that effectively investigates attacks on human rights defenders, responds immediately to incidents of threats and attacks, offers relief support to human rights defenders at risk, builds the capacity of the human rights community and creates an enabling environment where human rights defenders can do their work freely and without fear of reprisal.

Sarwar Danish, Afghanistan’s Second Vice President, said that the government takes concerns about the safety of human rights defenders in in the country seriously, and will implement measures to ensure their protection.

Sarwar Danish said:

“Until now, there has been a lot of focus on awareness of human rights, but for the protection of human rights defenders there has not been enough attention.

“I am very happy that this strategy is presented by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. It’s a very crucial initiative.On behalf of the Government of Afghanistan, I commit that I will do whatever possible to implement this strategy.”

The joint strategy is the product of extensive consultations involving more than 100 human rights defenders in different parts of the country, including Kabul, Herat, Kunduz, Baghlan, Logar and Mazar-e-Sharif.

Samira Hamidi, South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International, said:

“Afghanistan’s human rights defenders are among the bravest in the world, working amid a conflict that claims thousands of lives every year. Faced with attacks from both the state and armed groups, they must receive the protection they need so that they continue their crucial work of promoting humanity’s core values.

The government’s commitment to the protection strategy marks an important first step. Now, they must implement a protection mechanism that is desperately needed. The international community has a key role to play here in supporting that effort.”

Attacks on human rights defenders

In August last year, Amnesty published a briefing, Defenceless defenders: Afghanistan’s human rights community under attack, detailing the threats, harassment, intimidation, violence and even death human rights defenders have faced for their work. In multiple cases, when human rights defenders turned to the authorities for support and protection, they were accused of fabricating their claims and even told to buy a weapon to defend themselves.

In September, Abdul Samad Amiri, a provincial official of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, was abducted and killed by the Taliban.

In November, human rights defenders Musa Mahmudi and Ehsanullah Hamidi, who had exposed the existence of a paedophile ring and revealed more than 100 instances of the sexual abuse suffered by boys in Logar province, were arbitrarily detained by the National Directorate for Security, Afghanistan’s top intelligence agency.

Brave

In 2018, Amnesty International launched BRAVE, a global campaign to combat threats to human rights defenders across the world who face harassment, intimidation, repressive legislation, unjust prosecution, detention and even death for their human rights activities.

Human rights defenders play a key role in defending the principles of freedom, justice and dignity which underpin the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their work contributes directly to the realization of human rights, the strengthening of the rule of law, and fostering sustainable development.

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