Head of state and government: Hamid Karzai
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 29.1 million
Life expectancy: 44.6 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 233/238 per 1,000
Conflict-related violence, and attendant human rights violations, increased throughout the country, including in northern and western Afghanistan, areas previously considered relatively safe. The Afghanistan NGO Security Office (ANSO), which advises organizations on safety conditions in Afghanistan, recorded 2,428 civilians killed in 2010 as a result of the conflict, with the majority attributed to the Taleban and other anti-government forces. There was a significant rise in the numbers of assassinations and executions of civilians by the Taleban for “supporting” the government or “spying” for the international forces. Violence caused by insurgents intensified, triggering widespread human rights abuses. In light of the spiralling conflict and the absence of an adequate domestic judicial system, Amnesty International called on the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity. The international community increasingly discussed ending its military presence in the country. The Afghan people continued to lose confidence in the ability of the government and the international security forces to uphold the rule of law and deliver essential social services. Health care, education and humanitarian aid remained out of reach for people in most rural areas, particularly in the south and south-east where the conflict was most intense.
Parliamentary elections held on 18 September were marred by nearly 6,000 allegations of electoral irregularities and fraud, attacks on candidates, and intimidation and attacks by the Taleban on voters, electoral workers and candidates.
Following the International Conference on Afghanistan held on 28 January in London, UK, and the National Consultative Peace Jirga held 2-4 June in Kabul, President Karzai established a 68-member High Peace Council in September to pursue peace negotiations with insurgent groups. The High Peace Council included figures widely accused of committing human rights abuses and war crimes. Only 10 women were appointed to the High Peace Council despite strong national and international pressure for adequate representation of women in negotiating teams and forums.
Afghan civil society groups, in particular women’s groups, war victims, and those who suffered at the hands of the Taleban, called on the government to ensure that the protection and promotion of human rights would not be sacrificed to facilitate negotiations with the Taleban and other insurgent groups.
The National Stability and Reconciliation bill was officially promulgated, granting immunity from criminal prosecution to people who committed serious human rights violations and war crimes over the past 30 years. The law was passed in March 2007 but not publicized and promulgated until early 2010.
Nine million Afghans, more than 30 per cent of the population, lived on less than US$25 a month and could not meet their basic needs. According to UNICEF, Afghanistan’s maternal death rate of 1,800 per 100,000 live births continued to be the second worst in the world. It was estimated that more than half a million Afghan women died every year during childbirth or after giving birth.
Abuses by armed groups
The Taleban and other armed groups (some anti-government and others ostensibly supporting the government) targeted, abducted, indiscriminately attacked and unlawfully killed civilians, committing human rights abuses and gross violations of international humanitarian law. According to ANSO, the Taleban and other anti-government armed groups were responsible for 2,027 casualties, up more than a quarter from 2009. The number of civilians assassinated or executed by armed groups surged by more than 95 per cent, including public executions of children. The victims were accused of “supporting” the government or “spying” for the international forces. Suicide attacks