Head of state and government Hamid Karzai
Death penalty retentionist
Population 28.2 million
Life expectancy 43.6 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 233/238 per 1,000
Adult literacy 28 per cent
Afghan people continued to suffer widespread human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law more than seven years after the USA and its allies ousted the Taleban. Access to health care, education and humanitarian aid deteriorated,particularly in the south and south-east of the country, due to escalating armed conflict between Afghan and international forces and the Taleban and other armed groups. Conflict-related violations increased in northern and western Afghanistan, areas previously considered relatively safe.
The Taleban and other anti-government groups stepped up attacks against civilians, including attacks on schools and health clinics, across the country. Allegations of electoral fraud during the 2009 presidential elections reflected wider concerns about poor governance and endemic corruption within the government. Afghans faced lawlessness associated with a burgeoning illegal narcotics trade, a weak and inept justice system and a systematic lack of respect for the rule of law. Impunity persisted, with the government failing to investigate and prosecute top government officials widely believed to be involved in human rights violations as well as illegal activities. The UN ranked Afghanistan the second poorest out of 182 countries in its index of human development.The country had the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Only 22 per cent of Afghans had access to clean drinking water.
Impunity – national elections
The failure to implement the 2005 Action Plan on Peace, Justice and Reconciliation and disband illegal armed groups allowed individuals suspected of serious human rights violations to stand for and hold public office.
The Afghan government and its international supporters failed to institute proper human rights protection mechanisms ahead of the August elections. The elections were marred by violence and allegations of widespread electoral fraud, including ballot box stuffing, premature closure of polling stations, opening unauthorized polling stations and multiple voting.
Despite a public outcry, President Karzai’s post re-election cabinet included several figures facing credible and public allegations of war crimes and serious human rights violations committed during Afghanistan’s civil war, as well as after the fall of the Taleban.
Abuses by armed groups
Civilian casualties caused by the Taleban and other insurgent groups increased. Between January and September, armed groups carried out more than 7,400 attacks across the country, according to the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office. The UN registered more than 2,400 civilian casualties, some two-thirds of whom were killed by the Taleban.
Violence peaked in August during the election period, with many of the attacks indiscriminate or targeted at civilians. Used as polling stations, schools and clinics were vulnerable to attack. According to the UN, at least 16 schools and one clinic were attacked by the Taleban and insurgent groups on election day.