Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Head of state and government Hamid Karzai
Thousands of civilians continued to suffer from targeted and indiscriminate attacks by armed opposition groups, with international and national security forces also responsible for civilian deaths and injuries. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported more than 2,700 civilians killed and 4,805 injured, the vast majority – 81% – by armed groups. Torture and other ill-treatment were common in detention facilities across the country, despite some government efforts to reduce incidence. Violence and discrimination against women and girls remained rife both institutionally and within wider society. The government sought to introduce tougher controls on the media, prompting an outcry among media workers, who continued to be threatened and detained by the authorities and armed groups. Persistent armed conflict prompted more families to flee their homes, with 459,200 people still displaced within Afghanistan by the conflict. Many lived in informal settlements with inadequate shelter, access to water, health care, and education. Some 2.7 million refugees remained outside the country.
In January the Taliban agreed to open a political office in Qatar allowing for direct peace negotiations; efforts faltered in March over requested exchanges of prisoners. In early November, negotiations between Pakistan and Afghanistan’s High Peace Council resulted in Pakistan releasing several detained Taliban leaders. On 17 November, the head of the High Peace Council, Salahuddin Rabbani, stated that Taliban officials who joined the peace process would receive immunity from prosecution despite the fact that some of the detained Taliban were suspected of war crimes. Women members of the High Peace Council remained sidelined from the main peace consultations.
States at NATO’s biennial Summit in May stressed the importance of women’s participation in Afghanistan’s peace, political, reconciliation and reconstruction processes, and the need to respect the institutional arrangements protecting their rights. At the same time, women’s groups raised concern about their effective exclusion from national consultations over the transfer of security responsibility from international to national security forces. Women activists condemned President Karzai’s “code of conduct”, proposed on 2 March, which stipulated that women should only travel with a male guardian and not mix with men in work or education.
In July, international donors met in Tokyo, Japan, where they pledged US$16 billion in civilian aid to Afghanistan until 2015, with sustained support until 2017. However, the UN reported in December that humanitarian funding had decreased from 2011 by nearly 50% to US$484 million in 2012. According to the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, threat levels against NGOs and aid workers remained similar to 2011 with 111 security incidents caused by armed groups and pro-government security forces, including killing, injury and abduction.
In September, Parliament confirmed without debate Assadulah Khalid as the new head of the National Directorate of Security (Afghanistan’s intelligence services), despite reports of his alleged involvement in acts of torture during his previous terms as Governor of Ghazni and Kandahar provinces.
The work of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission remained under-resourced following the President’s controversial dismissal of three of its nine commissioners in December 2011. Another post remained vacant since January 2011 when a commissioner and her family were killed in a bomb attack.
Violent protests broke out in February after charred copies of the Qur’an were found on a military base near Kabul; 30 people died in the violence.
Abuses by armed groups
Despite a 2010 Taliban code of conduct (Layeha) ordering fighters to avoid targeting civilians, the Taliban and other armed groups continued to breach the laws of war by indiscriminately killing and maiming civilians in suicide attacks. Improvised explosive devices were the main cause of civilian casualties. Armed groups targeted and attacked public places; civilians, including officials, perceived as supporting the government; and staff of international organizations.