Amnesty International: Human Rights Defenders are being targeted in Afghanistan

Farshad Bonyadih

Amnesty International released its finding about Human Rights Defenders in Afghanistan who are being targeted both by state and non-state actors and facing the neglect and inability of state, too. BBC Persian quoted Omar Waraich—Deputy South Asia Director—that “Human Rights Defenders not only live in a dangerous environment but are also being threatened by the government and armed groups”.

The study finds that these activists face “intimidation, harassment, threats and violence” all over Afghanistan. Those interviewed as part of the study, reported that they were asked to procure their own weapon.

The study which was published on 28th August, reports that activists based in Kabul are more vulnerable than the rest, and that the situation for female activists is worse—particularly in provinces. Female activists were asked to abandon their job and stay in the safe side, in provinces.

Human Rights Defenders find limited space since President Ashraf Ghani took office in 2014, to advocate and expose serious human rights violations. In what is brought as an example, an organization was asked to remove names of high-ranking officials from a shadow report that was addressed to UN Committee against Torture in 2017.

“I believe it was 4pm that the report was sent to the CSOs… around 10pm, someone called “EIiyas”* [his colleague, whose name is anonymized] that you in your report named key and important figures. People named [in the report] were… [names are omitted to prevent any possible security repercussions to the civil society organization.] and a few others. They had threatened that, ‘You must remove their names because they are the ones who are standing against the Taliban. If they are not here you will not be here, too…’ We were forced to removed them [their names]:”

This study further notes that cases of threats, intimidation, harassment and violence against Human Rights Activists remain unprosecuted in Afghanistan. Khalil Parsa—an activist based in Herat—was shot at seven bullets and was told by the provincial office of National Directorate of Security to “report the matter if the assailants reappeared”.

But, they [the security institutions] did not investigate well. All CCTV footage existed, and they could have reviewed them… after two weeks, they went to review the security cameras. Then, they [police] were told that these cameras are recording for one week and erasing them the next week. They told the security [police] that if they have a recovery system, they can bring them to recover the [earlier] videos. Everything was clearly recorded in the security cameras. But, they did not investigate my case.”

“HRDs live in constant fear as cases of threats, intimidation and attacks were not investigated nor prosecuted. This situation was exacerbated by the government’s failure to provide protection to members of CSOs who have been threatened with death.”

In another report that was compiled by UNAMA in the aftermath of Taliban’s attack in Kunduz on 28th September 2016, it is noted that the Taliban had immediately started searching houses and locating Human Rights Defenders (particularly women), NGO and UN employees, media and government personnel.

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