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Afghanistan: 'Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights Treated Worse Than Dogs' as Ignorant Judges Fail to Protect Victims and Punish Criminals

Ingrid Massage, Asia director at Amnesty International said:

'The act of holding elections has been held up by some parties as a sign of Afghanistan’s recovery. This could not be further from the truth: outside Kabul the situation for the Afghan people has been rapidly deteriorating over the last few months.'

Amnesty’s researchers found the climate of fear and insecurity which has blighted the election process is equally affecting the everyday lives of the Afghan people, particularly Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights. Lawlessness is rife: most Afghans have no access to justice because the judiciary is largely ignorant of national law. Armed groups in effect rule most of the country; in the central highlands they force farmers to grow opium.

Ingrid Massage said:

'Half the population - Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights - face systematic and widespread violence. Everywhere they went our researchers heard that Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights were afraid even to leave their homes, in case they were abducted. A significant number of the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights we met in prisons were in there for their own protection rather than as a punishment.'

Zainab, a 19-year-old woman, was forced to marry when she was 16. From the first day of the marriage her husband beat her up and mentally tortured her. Zainab lived under virtual house arrest for a year and a half. Her husband continued to beat her even when she became pregnant, and she miscarried her first baby. Despite the beatings Zainab gave birth to a second child, but after her husband threw their three-month-old baby across the room, Zainab decided she could take no more, and ran away to her family. When her husband pursued her and threatened to kill the baby Zainab went back to him for a while. She is now back with her family, but feels she has nowhere to turn for help: her relatives want her to go back to her husband.

'Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are treated worse than dogs,' said one woman interviewed in Kabul.

Dina, a human rights activist, was subjected to a drive-by acid attack four days before being interviewed by Amnesty International. Dina had been vocal against forced marriages in east Afghanistan. She was waiting for a shuttle-bus outside her home in Kabul when three men pulled up in a car. One jumped out and threw acid at her, burning her neck. Asked whether she would continue her work after the attack, Dina replied, 'I will have to, there is no-one else to work on human rights violations against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights. Who else is there?'

Particularly shocking was the prevailing ignorance of the country’s laws among judges and lawyers. One appeal judge in Kandahar was not able to point to the law which made running away from one’s husband a crime. Other legal professionals in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif were similarly caught out. Yet many of the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights the researchers interviewed in prison had been convicted on this very charge.

Ingrid Massage said:

'If even judges are unsure of the statutory code, how can ordinary Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights hope to seek justice for the widespread cases of violence against them?'

One woman in Kandahar, Fatima, told how she had been abducted at the age of seven by a member of an armed group, Hamid, and taken to Pakistan. Hamid regularly beat her and abused her, and she had three Children's rights by him by the time she was twenty. Fatima retuned to Afghanistan in July. She was in prison when the researchers met her, having been accused of trying to kill Hamid with the help of a male neighbour.

She had been detained without charge for the last two months because the prosecutor could not decide what to charge her with. He was considering charging her with adultery because Hamid had also accused her of this. The only evidence against Fatima was the word of Hamid. Yet despite the years of abuse she had suffered at his hands, there was no question of Hamid being prosecuted.

'From the waist down, a woman is the property of a man,' said a judge interviewed in Kandahar.

As well as lacking basic legal skills, the judiciary is ineffective, corrupt and susceptible to intimidation from armed groups. The national army and police remain fledgling organizations and are suspected of committing human rights violations.

Poverty and insecurity are making many fathers force their daughters into early marriage rather than allowing them to go into higher education. The dowry and their daughters’ safety are both factors in such decisions.

Amnesty International urges the Afghan government and donor countries to increase security throughout Afghanistan, and to consider extending the mandate of the international security assistance force to this end. The criminal justice system must continue to be reformed and the rule of law strengthened massively. Training projects for judges and lawyers outside Kabul should be started as a matter of urgency. The police, judiciary, and government officials should all be trained on protecting Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s rights.

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