Afghan rights at risk with military drawdown

Last Updated: Sat, Feb 02, 2013 05:50 hrs

London, Feb 2 (IANS) Afghanistan's human rights situation remained poor, with deterioration in some areas, and growing concerns for the future, especially about rights of women and girls, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

In its World Report 2013, it said the Afghan government under President Hamid Karzai continued to allow rights-abusing warlords and corrupt officials to operate with impunity. The rights of Afghan women and girls, which improved significantly after 2001, suffered rollbacks in 2012 due to security deterioration in several parts of the country, HRW said.

The Taliban and other insurgent forces continued to commit unlawful attacks targeting civilians and failing to discriminate between civilians and combatants.

"The future of human rights protection in Afghanistan is in grave doubt," said Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch. "Corruption, little rule of law, poor governance, and abusive policies and practices deprive the country's most vulnerable citizens of their rights."

In 2012, US-led foreign military forces began a drawdown as part of a major reduction set to be reached in 2014.

Growing international fatigue with Afghanistan has reduced political pressure on the government to protect and promote rights, the report said.

Despite pledges of goodwill and support, international commitments to defending basic rights in Afghanistan have shrunk and are backed by less political pressure.

Cuts in international aid were already leading to closure of schools and health clinics.

Afghanistan's justice system remained a potent threat to the rights of Afghanistan's women, HRW said.

As of spring 2012, 400 women and girls were in prison and juvenile detention for the "moral crimes" of running away from home or sex outside marriage.

Large areas of Afghanistan still rely on traditional justice mechanisms that can subject women to gross brutality.

Although women have attained some leadership roles in the Afghan government and civil society since 2001, including as judges and members of parliament, Afghan women and girls continued to face everyday abuses.

Many have been specifically targeted by the Taliban and other insurgent forces.

"Afghanistan needs donors who will support women's rights as a long-term priority," Adams said.

The Taliban and other insurgent forces continued to commit human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war in 2012.

Insurgent forces launched at least 34 attacks against schools in the first six months of 2012, half of which involved targeted assassinations of school staff or education officials.

Warlordism and its attendant rights abuses remained one of the country's most serious problems, HRW said.

The government has failed to prosecute high-level officials for corruption, criminal offenses and other abuses, while the 2005 Action Plan for Peace, Reconciliation and Justice remains unimplemented.

Abuses perpetrated by the US-backed Afghan Police and other militia groups ostensibly under government control - including extortion, rape and killings - remained routine and widespread, it said.

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