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UN calls for concerted effort to improve human rights situation

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour has welcomed the Afghan government’s steps to improve the human rights situation in the country, the world body said on Sunday.

During his four-day visit, Gilmour voiced concern at the lack of implementation in some key areas; appalling attacks on civilians, mainly by extremists; and the continued discrimination against women at all levels of society.

The assistant secretary-general recognized the steps taken by the government on human rights, particularly the new Penal Code which reinforces Afghanistan’s compliance with international human rights standards.

Criminalization of torture, violence against women and bachabazi — a harmful practice involving abuse of boys — established a sound foundation to ensure perpetrators were held accountable for the offenses persisting throughout the country, he noted.

“The government has made significant progress in ending violence against women, but the use of mediation for the gravest cases of violence, including murder, severe violence and harmful traditional practices, is to be regretted.”

In a statement from the UN, Gilmour said: “What would send a strong signal to those men who continue to violently abuse women with impunity would be to start seriously prosecuting them.”

He also urged the authorities to investigate and prosecute military or civilian perpetrators of sexual abuse of boys. He welcomed the commitment from the government, particularly the minister of interior, to end impunity for the despicable form of child abuse.

Welcoming the government’s adoption of the new anti-torture law and ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, Gilmour urged active implementation that required prosecuting perpetrators.

During his trip to Kunduz, Gilmour met the governor and senior members of security forces and judicial institutions. He stressed the need to reduce civilian casualties in military operations.

He also met community representatives from Laghmani village, Dasht-e-Archi district, in relation to the April 2 aerial operations by Afghan forces in their village, in which more than 100 people, mainly children, were killed and wounded.

Gilmour, deeply troubled by the accounts of the devastating loss and suffering from this incident, asked the government to take measures to protect civilians, hold perpetrators accountable in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law and restore trust between the residents of Dasht-e-archi and the Government.

“Accepting full responsibility for what clearly was a terrible mistake, and a sincere apology for the suffering caused is always a useful step in advancing reconciliation and a failure to do so provides great ammunition for terrorists,” he said.

Gilmour stressed the UN human rights team in Afghanistan continued to document high levels of civilian casualties, particularly from suicide attacks in densely populated areas.

He referred to a report released on Thursday by UNAMA detailing a disturbing pattern of attacks at election-related facilities following the start of voter registration for the October 2018 polls, resulting in 271 civilians killed and injured.

In his meeting with President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday, Gilmour welcomed the government’s clear commitment to take additional measures to protect civilians, despite extremely difficult circumstances.

Speaking at a conference on Accountability, Human Rights, Justice and Peace in the pursuit of reconciliation, he said the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) had been performing impressively and remained a key pillar of the human rights community.

“The Afghan People Dialogue, facilitated by AIHRC, civil society and UNAMA, showed how much the people of Afghanistan want security and a lasting peace built on accountability and justice. I hope the government hears these compelling voices,” he concluded.

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