PAN, May 24, 2013

Thousands of Afghans continue to suffer: AI

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission documented more than 4,000 cases of violence against women from 21 March to 21 October 2012 – a jump of 28 per cent from the same period last year

By Javed Hamim Kakar

A top human rights organization on Wednesday said thousands of Afghan civilians continue to suffer from "targeted and indiscriminate attacks" by armed militant groups.

Amnesty International, in its global review of human rights issues, said quoted figures from the UN, which held militants responsible for 80 percent of the 2,700 civilians killed last year.

The assessment of Afghanistan says torture remained common in detention facilities, despite government efforts to reduce ill-treatment.

The report also says violence and discrimination against women and girls remained commonplace. Tougher government controls on the media were also reported.

The human rights situation in Afghanistan remains deeply worrying as the country faces a crucial year with the security transition well under way.

The report looks at the state of human rights around the world over the past year, and highlights the persistent problems in Afghanistan of violence against women and girls, conflict abuses against civilians, and the dire conditions faced by displaced people.

“With the Afghan authorities’ increasing responsibility for security, it is vital that human rights be prioritized by the government and parliament, Afghanistan’s international partners,” Horia Mosadiq, Amnesty International’s Afghanistan Researcher said.

Poor people of Afghanistan
In fact, the auditors say, graft has gotten so bad that the U.S. government estimates that only about 10 percent of the aid budget actually reaches the people in Afghanistan who need it. (Photo: Deedenow Cinema)

“2012 was in many ways a bleak year for human rights in Afghanistan. But there is also cause for optimism. We have seen for instance more civil society activism, especially from the women’s movement.”

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission documented more than 4,000 cases of violence against women from 21 March to 21 October 2012 – a jump of 28 per cent from the same period last year, possibly due to increased public awareness.

In Afghanistan, around 500,000 people remained internally displaced by the end of October 2012. Many are forced to live in slum conditions with poor sanitation and inadequate access to education and healthcare, while under threat of being forcibly evicted.

“We’re glad that our campaign last year to ensure better protection for internally displaced persons seems to have had an impact. The Afghan government’s drafting now of a comprehensive national policy on internal displacement could help enormously, if properly resourced and implemented.”

The group documents abuses in 159 countries and territories that it says were "inflicted by those in power on those who stand in the way of their vested interests."

It reports numerous cases of torture, poor prison conditions, persecution of rights activists, and the suppression of freedom of speech.

The assessment highlights the courage of rights activists to effect change.

Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty, speaking in a video released by her organization, says abusive governments can no longer use the issue of sovereignty to justify their actions.

"Governments have been created to protect the rights of their citizens, but we then have governments who are actually doing exactly the opposite, who are actually violating the rights of their own citizens and people who are living inside their boundaries," Shetty says.

"So I think in this day and age the excuse of national sovereignty, that these are internal affairs, is simply not acceptable."

The report criticised the Obama administration's increasing use of drone aircraft for the targeted killing of terrorism suspects overseas and questioned whether it is legal.

The US drone policy is shrouded in secrecy but the killings appear to amount to extrajudicial executions that violate international rights laws.

In this year's report Amnesty says refugees and migrants in crisis areas were particularly vulnerable for human rights abuses.

The report, which covers 2012 and was released late on Wednesday at the Amnesty International headquarters in London, said that at the start of last year 12 million people were stateless, while 15 million people worldwide are currently registered as refugees.

The report added that an additional 214 million migrants live without protection of their home state or their host state.

Amnesty says these refugees, migrants, and displaced citizens, often victims of conflict or persecution, face a situation where their human rights are routinely denied or ignored.

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