A total of 368,786 refugees returned to Afghanistan from Iran and Pakistan during the year, according to UNHCR. Some returnees were displaced from their places of origin because of scarce economic opportunities and limited access to land, housing, drinking and irrigation water, health care and education. In several instances, the returnees’ land and property were occupied by local militias allied with the government.
Thousands of displaced Pakistanis, who fled military operations in the north-western parts of Pakistan – the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Swat valley – were sheltering in Kunar, Khost and Paktika provinces in eastern Afghanistan (see Pakistan entry).
Arbitrary arrests and detentions
Hundreds of Afghans continued to be arbitrarily detained, without clear legal authority and due process. Some 700 Afghans remained in detention at the US base at Bagram airport without charge or trial in “security internment” of indefinite length. On 15 November, the USA inaugurated a new “improved” detention facility adjacent to the Bagram facility but continued to withhold detainees’ rights to due process (see USA entry).
NATO and US forces continued to hand over detainees to the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence service, where they were at risk of torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and unfair trials.
Law enforcement officials illegally detained – and in some cases even tried – people on charges not provided for in the Penal Code, such as breaches of contractual obligations, family disputes, as well as so-called “moral crimes”. The NDS arrested and detained people, including journalists, for acts considered a “risk to public or state security and safety”, which have been vaguely defined in Afghan law.
In its national report to the UN Human Rights Council in February, the government acknowledged weaknesses in the justice system, including lack of access to justice for women, corruption and lack of presumption of innocence.
Trial proceedings fell below international standards of fairness, including by not providing adequate time for the accused to prepare their defence, lack of legal representation, reliance on insufficient evidence or evidence gathered through torture and other illtreatment, and the denial of the defendants’ right to call and examine witnesses.
The lower courts sentenced 133 people to death, of whom 24 had their sentences upheld by the Supreme Court of Afghanistan. At least 375 people remained on death row.
Amnesty International visits/reports
Amnesty International delegates visited Afghanistan in April, May, October and December.
Getting away with murder? The impunity of international forces in Afghanistan (26 February 2009)
Afghanistan: Three concrete steps to improve conditions for Afghans (30 March 2009)
Afghanistan: 10-point human rights agenda for President Karzai (1 November 2009)