UN calls on Afghanistan to protect human rights defenders

UNITED NATIONS, August 15 (APP): UN human rights experts on Friday called on Afghanistan to take early decisive action to prevent killings of human rights defenders, while calling attention to a recent spate of such deaths.

“The killing of one human rights defender is a tragedy for society; the death of nine defenders since the beginning of this year shows the emergence of a truly alarming trend,” Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said in a statement. “Already by August, Afghanistan has far exceeded last year’s figures.”

“Impunity allows the perpetuation of such crimes and implies a lack of recognition for human rights defenders’ role in society,” the experts said, noting that investigations in many cases had not yet yielded any results.

“There needs to be full accountability for such egregious violations of human rights,” they added. They cited the case of Asmatullah Salaam, who worked on promoting the right to education in the province of Ghazni, was abducted and killed as he made his way to celebrate Eid with his family on 1st August.

His death came not long after Fatimah Natasha Khalil and Ahmad Jawed Folad were killed on their way to work at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission on 27th June. Human rights defender Ibrahim Ebrat was shot dead in Zabul in May.

“In January, the Government of Afghanistan voiced support for the idea of creating a national protection mechanism for human rights defenders, but no progress has been reported and clearly defenders are still no better protected than they were before,” the experts noted.

“We urge the government to urgently put in place, as promised, an effective national protection mechanism.” It is the responsibility of every government to protect human rights defenders against armed groups, they added.

“Afghanistan must do better at detecting and acting on early warning signs, such as threats and intimidation, protecting others who find themselves at risk, and thoroughly investigating violence, including killings, when they happen,” they said. “We cannot allow these disturbing events to continue.”

The experts said they were talking with Afghanistan authorities, and pledged to closely monitor the situation. Besides Ms. Lawlor, the experts are: Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

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