CATASTROPHIC HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE

Amnesty International, which condemns any act of hostage-taking by armed political groups - including hijacking - as a human rights abuse, remains deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and for those seeking asylum from Afghanistan.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'There is currently a catastrophic denial of basic human rights in Afghanistan and this case should not distract from the fact that thousands of people there are at risk of the most serious persecution and brutal summary justice'.

Amnesty International has recently gathered information on major human rights violations that include:

· Thousands of people deliberately and systematically killed, including thousands of ethnic Hazara civilians killed by Taleban guards in Mazar-e Sharif in 1998

· Thousands of civilians taken prisoner, including large numbers of probable prisoners of conscience, with torture or ill-treatment of almost all detainees reported

· Tens of thousands of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights being confined to their homes under Taleban edicts

· Girls and boys suffering rape and sexual assault following abduction

· Executions, floggings and amputations after unfair trials in Taleban courts

In a House of Commons debate in February last year the Home Secretary Jack Straw said Afghanistan was one of four countries which 'has faced severe upheaval of one sort or another, and…many of the applications from those countries are genuine and well-founded'.

Recent reports of the closure of borders with Afghanistan - to Tajikstan, Iran and Pakistan - are intensifying fears that those seeking to escape human rights violations, including abuses being committed in fighting between Taleban forces and armed opposition groups, are unable to do so and remain trapped in desperate conditions.

Amnesty International reminds all neighbouring countries of the obligation to allow access to refugees fleeing persecution.

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