Ensure security of rights defenders, AI asks govt

KABUL (Pajhwok): Amnesty International on Tuesday asked the Ashraf Ghani administration to keep its promise to create a body for the protection of human rights defenders at risk. In a statement, the global organisation recalled a presidential decree creating the Joint Commission for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

More than three months on, it noted, no practical steps had been taken to make it an effective protection mechanism, with a lack of information forthcoming on any plan to address the threat faced by members of Afghan civil society. “An already dire situation for Afghanistan’s human rights community has significantly worsened in recent months,” the AI statement added. Eleven human rights defenders and media workers have been killed in targeted attacks between the start of peace negotiations on September 12 last year and January 31. 2021.

“This delay has already cost lives and there is no sign of the violence abating,” remarked Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director Yamini Mishra. Mishra said: “The announcement of the Joint Commission was a vital step towards providing human rights defenders across the country with the support and security they so desperately need.

She continued body that currently exists in name only. In more than three months, during which we have witnessed a frenzied escalation of killings, attacks and threats against activists, the Commission has made no tangible progress or taken any meaningful action. The delay had already cost lives and there was no sign of the violence abating, she said, stressing the need for the joint commission to urgently expedite its work and prioritise the immediate security needs of human rights defenders.

Mishra also called for investigations into all cases of threats, attacks and other forms of intimidation, and holding the perpetrators to account. Amnesty International urged the commission to ensure that human rights defenders were provided with adequate protection measures, including relocation, relief and psychosocial support.

According to UNAMA figures, 14 human rights defenders were killed in Afghanistan in 2020. This includes Mohammad Yousuf Rasheed, CEO of Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan. Soon afterwards, women’s rights activist Freshta Kohistani and her brother were killed in central Kapisa province by unknown gunmen.