Afghanistan: Human rights 'scorecard' for last decade shows only limited progress

Amnesty experts available for interview on or before 7 October ‘anniversary’

Almost ten years after a US-led military invasion removed the Taleban from Afghanistan, the Afghan government and its international supporters have failed to keep many of the promises they made to the Afghan people, Amnesty International said today.

An Amnesty “scorecard” on the state of human rights in Afghanistan has found some progress in enacting human rights laws, a reduction in discrimination against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and improved access to education and health care.

However, progress on justice and policing, human security and displacement had stagnated or even regressed, Amnesty has found. Afghans living in areas heavily affected by the insurgency have seen a serious deterioration in their conditions.

Amnesty International Asia Pacific Director Sam Zarifi said:

“Hopes were high in Afghanistan in 2001 following the international intervention but since then human rights gains have been put at risk by corruption, mismanagement and attacks by insurgent groups who’ve shown systematic contempt for human rights and the laws of war.

“The Afghan government and its partners can’t continue to justify their poor performance by saying that things are better than during the 1990s. Wherever Afghans were given security and financial assistance, they overcame tremendous obstacles to improve their conditions. But too often promises of assistance were not kept.

“The Afghan government’s international allies, including the US, have repeatedly said that they will not abandon the Afghan people. They must stand by this commitment to ensure that rights are not swept aside as the international community seeks an exit.”

Amnesty has also recently published a new 12-page briefing on Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s rights in Afghanistan and has written to the Foreign Secretary William Hague urging that “clear red lines” on Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s rights are put in place in any negotiations with the Taleban and other armed groups in the country. Amnesty supporters in the UK are also contacting their MPs asking them to raise the issue with the UK government (see http://amn.st/nP4z9F).

Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights rights and peace negotiations
There has been a modest re-entry of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights into schools, the workplace and the government in the last ten years. Afghanistan has also enacted a number of laws that appear to strengthen Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s rights. The new constitution gives equal legal status to men and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and also sets aside a quota of a quarter of parliamentary seats for Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights. Two parliamentary elections held in 2005 and 2010 saw Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights take slightly more seats than their allotted quota.

At the start of 2010 the Afghan government began a reconciliation process with the Taleban and other insurgent groups. But a 70-member “High Peace Council” body established to negotiate with the Taleban has only nine Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights members and Afghan Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s groups have expressed their fear that their modest gains will be traded away in exchange for a ceasefire.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“It’s now vital that we don’t see deals done that sell out Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s rights.

“The peace process in Afghanistan mustn’t mean putting a price on Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s rights. These are non-negotiable. They’re the ‘red lines’ that the Afghan community, Nato and countries like the UK must insist on.

“The recent resurgence of Taleban attacks has sent out shockwaves of fear among many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls in the country, many of whom suspect that their rights are going to be traded away to achieve a peace deal at their expense.”

Education
Without the restrictions imposed by the Taleban, access to education has also significantly improved since 2001. There are now seven million Children's rights attending school, of whom 37% are girls. Under the Taleban there were less than a million students and almost no girls were allowed to attend school. Maternal mortality rates in Afghanistan have also improved but they remain among the highest on the planet.

However, in the nine months leading up to December 2010 at least 74 schools in Afghanistan were destroyed or closed as a result of insurgent violence, including rocket attacks, bombings, arson and threats. Of these attacks, 26 were directed at girls’ schools, 13 at boys’ schools, and 35 at mixed schools.

Civilian deaths
In the last decade, increasing numbers of Afghan civilians have been injured during armed conflict. Over the last three years, around three-quarters of civilian casualties have been caused by attacks by insurgent groups, and the rest by international and Afghan forces.

The UN documented 1,462 civilian deaths in the first six months of 2011, another record high. Eighty per cent of these deaths were attributed to “Anti-Government Elements”, with IEDs and suicide attacks, accounting for almost half of all civilian deaths and injuries.

The conflict has left nearly 450,000 internally displaced people in Afghanistan, mainly situated in Kabul and Balkh provinces and often living in extremely poor conditions with limited access to food, adequate sanitation or safe drinking water.

Freedom of speech, media reporting
In recent years a small but vibrant community of journalists has sprung up in Afghanistan, but violence against journalists and media workers has been increasing in areas heavily affected by the Taleban and other insurgent groups.

Note to editors
Horia Mosadiq, Amnesty’s Afghanistan researcher, is an Afghan woman activist and journalist with more than 15 years’ experience of national and international advocacy on human rights, justice and gender issues in Afghanistan. Horia previously played a leading role in Afghan human rights agencies, winning awards for her work. In 2007 she brought victims of war crimes to testify before the Afghan president. Horia has been victimised for her work as a human rights defender, and is a survivor of human rights abuses experienced while living in Afghanistan.

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific Director, leads the organisation’s research, campaigning and crisis response in the Asia Pacific. Sam has specific expertise on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has worked and travelled in the region extensively.

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