A killing machine has been unleashed on us, and it looks like every other person we meet on road”, Afghan human rights defenders (HRDs) said as they continue to struggle under intensifying attacks from both the authorities and armed groups. They face intimidation, harassment, threats, violence, and targeted killings. While a Presidential Decree was issued on December 2020, for establishment of a Joint Commission for the protection of HRDs, there has been no progress in creating an effective, functional protection mechanism for those at risk. The government of Afghanistan needs to immediately step up to make the joint commission functional and responsive to the needs of HRDs.
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H. E. Muhammad Sarwar Danish
Second Vice President
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Email: [email protected]
H.E. Vice President Muhammad Sarwar Danish
Human rights defenders in Afghanistan are being threatened, harassed, intimidated, and killed, pushing into fleeing the country, by both authorities and armed groups, and I am writing this letter to express my grave concern over the deteriorating situation of their security.
I am sure you can appreciate; human rights defenders (HRDs) have long played a key role in addressing serious human rights challenges in Afghanistan. The public pledge by you in January 2020 to establish a protection mechanism for HRDs, based on the Afghanistan Human Rights Defenders Protection Strategy, was a promising development. Also, while it was encouraging to learn that a Joint Commission for the Protection of HRDs was established in December 2020, months have now passed and there is yet to be any progress on forming a functional commission to address the protection needs of HRDs. Against the backdrop of escalating and widening violence across the country, the civic space within which HRDs can operate has shrunk dramatically. It is time for action now, as HRDs continue to be murdered on your streets.
I found it distressing to note a recent spike in attacks against human rights defenders over the last months. Despite guarantees in the Afghanistan Constitution, and the ratification of several key UN treaties on human rights, HRDs are not afforded adequate protection.
Therefore, I call on you to:
- Ensure that the Joint Commission for the Protection of HRDs is effective, functional, and immediately addresses the imminent and long-term security concerns faced by human rights defenders,
- Investigate attacks and threats against HRDs under international laws on fair trials and hold the perpetrators accountable, establish a referral system for their protection, and provide them with psychosocial assistance.