The mandate of UNAMA Human Rights under United Nations Security Council Resolution 2096 (2013) is to "monitor the situation of civilians, to coordinate efforts to ensure their protection, to promote accountability, and to assist in the full implementation of the fundamental freedoms and human rights provisions of the Afghan Constitution and international treaties to which Afghanistan is a State party, in particular those regarding the full enjoyment by women of their human rights."
To this end, UNAMA Human Rights monitors, analyzes and reports on the human rights situation in Afghanistan and engages in protection, advocacy and capacity building activities. Through regular public updates (weekly code cables and monthly reports) and thematic reports, UNAMA Human Rights provides stakeholders, including the Government, the Afghan people, the international community, civil society and media with a substantive analysis of the human rights situation, raises issues of concern and proposes and advocates for measures to improve promotion and protection of human rights throughout Afghanistan.
Priority Areas of Work
UNAMA Human Rights is pursuing an overall strategy of “embedding human rights in Afghanistan” or “human rights everywhere all the time for everyone” in support of all Afghan people. The UNAMA Human Rights team implements this strategy through targeted research, reporting, advocacy and engagement in strategic partnerships and dialogue with Government, military, international and civil society actors, and communities across Afghanistan in four priority areas: protection of civilians, violence against women, peace and reconciliation and detention.
Protection of Civilians: UNAMA Human Rights undertakes a range of activities aimed at minimizing the impact of the armed conflict on civilians; this includes independent and impartial monitoring, documentation and reporting of incidents involving loss of life or injury to civilians; advocacy activities to strengthen protection of civilians affected by the armed conflict; and initiatives to promote respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, and the Afghan Constitution among all parties to the conflict. UNAMA Human Rights systematically documents and releases statements and public reports on protection of civilians and civilian casualties. (Click here for UNAMA reports on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.)
In addition, UNAMA Human Rights is participating with other parts of UNAMA and external stakeholders in actively observing the current Afghan government-led and NATO/ISAF process of “Transition” (transfer of lead security responsibilities from international military forces to Afghan security forces). UNAMA Human Rights’ focus is on ensuring that “Transition” does not result in a reduction of protection for civilians, encompasses the broader human security agenda and fully protects women’s rights.
Violence against Women: UNAMA Human Rights’ focus is on combating violence against women and enabling their participation in the public sphere. On 11 December 2012, UNAMA Human Rights released its latest public report documenting harmful traditional practices against women and girls and implementation of the Elimination of Violence against Law (EVAW law) by the Afghan government. The report, based on extensive country-wide research, found that despite some progress in implementing the EVAW law designed to protect Afghan women from violence, application of the landmark law continued to be hampered by “dramatic under reporting” and lack of investigations into most incidents of violence targeting women. The report recommends measures to end such practices. UNAMA Human Rights is engaged in intensive advocacy on the report’s findings and recommendations, monitoring and reporting on implementation of the EVAW law and is supporting provincial departments’ of women’s affairs and women’s NGOs throughout the country. (Click here for all UNAMA reports on violence against women)
UNAMA Human Rights also provides technical support to legislative developments (for example the draft law on traditional dispute resolution and regulation on women’s shelters) that affect women and girl’s rights. Human Rights works with Afghan partners to promote and guarantee women’s representation in Government, elections and peace, reconciliation and reintegration processes.
Peace and Reconciliation (Transitional Justice and Impunity): UNAMA Human Rights supports initiatives to mobilize and strengthen women’s and civil society organizations, victims’ groups, the media, Government and the international community to pursue processes aimed at ending impunity. UNAMA HR works with Afghan civil society to strengthen their effective participation in major political dialogues and in the current peace, reconciliation and reintegration process (Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program-APRP).
Together with other parts of UNAMA, Human Rights provides technical assistance to the APRP, the High Peace Council and other relevant actors. Human Rights aims to integrate human rights in the peace and reconciliation process through promoting the meaningful inclusion of civil society, women’s and victims’ groups in the peace and reintegration process (through facilitation of the Afghan People’s Dialogue on Peace) and through ensuring that issues of justice, accountability (particularly for serious human rights crimes), grievance resolution, vetting and amnesty are addressed in line with Afghan law and the Government’s obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.
Detention: UNAMA Human Rights documents and advocates on conflict and non-conflict related detention issues involving Afghan authorities and international military forces. Human Rights is advocating for implementation of recommendations to end widespread arbitrary detention documented in UNAMA's major reports on arbitrary detention. UNAMA Human Rights unit is also monitoring detention in National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Ministry of Justice detention facilities throughout the country and is using findings in advocacy, focusing on treatment and due process rights of detainees. (Click here for the latest UNAMA report on treatment of conflict-related detainees in Afghan custody.)
Partnering with National Institutions and Civil Society
UNAMA Human Rights works with the following actors to support national institution building and capacity development:
AIHRC (Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission): UNAMA HR collaborates with the AIHRC on protection of civilians, violence against women, detention and impunity. UNAMA HR also supports the AIHRC in developing and implementing the National Priority Program for Human Rights and Civic Responsibility as part of Kabul Process.
Ministry of Justice: UNAMA HR provides technical support to the Human Rights Support Unit of the Ministry of Justice, which is working to facilitate comprehensive understanding and mainstreaming of human rights across ministries of the Afghan government.
Judicial and Law Enforcement Actors including Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Supreme Court and National Directorate of Security: UNAMA HR has worked with Afghan judicial and law enforcement actors since 2006 to address arbitrary detention, treatment of detainees/prisoners, violence against women and a range of rule of law concerns.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: UNAMA HR supports the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on its submissions under the Universal Periodic Review, and the Government in designing an action plan for implementation of UPR recommendations issued by the UN Human Rights Council. UNAMA HR provides technical support to Government committees that oversee drafting of country reports required under Afghanistan’s international treaty body reporting obligations.
Civil Society: UNAMA Human Rights supports and carries out joint activities with civil society organizations throughout Afghanistan and in Kabul. HR also closely monitors the situation of Afghan human rights defenders and takes appropriate action to assist and support them as necessary.
Secretary-General's latest report
The UN Secretary-General's quarterly report to the Security Council released on 6 September 2013 provides an update of UNAMA human right activities since 13 June 2013, listed below. For a full copy of the report, click here.
III. Human rights
27. On 15 June, President Karzai appointed five new members of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, while four commissioners were retained on the nine-person body, including the Chair, Sima Simar. The Chair, civil society, several donors and the United Nations expressed concern regarding the appointment process and eligibility of the new members. On 28 June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed these concerns in a public statement. The Senior Officials Meeting on 3 July noted commitment by the Government of Afghanistan to maintain the integrity of the Commission and to ensure retention of the Commission’s “A” status in the upcoming international accreditation process by the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, which could also impact future international financial support to the Commission and more broadly.
28. Released on 31 July, the UNAMA Mid-Year Report 2013 on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict documented 3,852 civilian casualties (1,319 deaths and 2,533 injuries). That marked a 14 per cent rise in civilian deaths and a 28 per cent increase in civilian injuries compared to the first six months of 2012, with civilian casualties up 23 per cent overall. In the first half of 2013, civilian casualties were on a par with those of 2011, reversing the decline recorded in 2012. Of civilian deaths and injuries, 74 per cent were attributed to anti-Government elements, 9 per cent to pro-Government forces, and 12 per cent to ground engagements between the parties. Improvised explosive devices used by anti-Government elements continued to be the leading cause of civilian deaths and injuries. Increased ground engagements, now the second major cause of casualties, are increasing the threat to civilians. Women accounted for 106 of those killed and 247 of those injured, up 61 per cent compared to the first half of 2012. Children comprised 231 of the dead and 529 of the injured, a 30 per cent increase. A statement on the Taliban’s official website dismissed the findings as biased and reiterated its stance that civilian Government employees and those perceived to support the Government were legitimate targets, in continuing, direct violation of international humanitarian law.
29. Accidents caused by explosive remnants of war in areas vacated by international forces represent a rising trend in deaths and injuries attributed to pro-Government forces. That resulted in 29 deaths and 37 injuries in the reporting period, in many cases the result of children searching for scrap metal. The United Nations has engaged with ISAF, which is working with its contributors in reviewing procedures.
30. The Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on Children and Armed Conflict, led by the United Nations, documented 78 deaths and a further 195 injuries of children in 58 verified incidents between 1 May and 31 July. When discussing Afghanistan’s progress on the Action Plan on Underage Recruitment, the Government highlighted progress in army and police recruitment practices and areas for improvement. The United Nations welcomed progress to date but emphasized the need for continued efforts in preventing the recruitment and use of children in Afghan security forces, particularly the police and the Afghan Local Police. On 10 August, the Office of my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) undertook a joint mission to Kabul to support the Government’s facilitation of the implementation of the Action Plan, including the development of a road map to compliance. On 14 August, the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee met, with the United Nations in attendance, to discuss the road map and emphasized the great importance it placed on implementation of the Action Plan and removal from my list of parties that recruit or use children.
31. In monitoring implementation of Presidential Decree No. 129 on preventing abuse of conflict-related detainees, UNAMA visited 55 detention facilities in 19 provinces. Interviews were conducted with 144 adults, and 26 children were arrested on conflict-related charges. Credible and reliable incidents of torture and ill-treatment were found in five National Directorate of Security and six Afghan National Police detention facilities. On 10 July, UNAMA conducted its first visit to the detention facility in Parwan, which was transferred to Government of Afghanistan control in March, with 2,440 detainees currently being held. The facility’s director advised that 2,330 detainees had been released since the handover, following case reviews. Another 70 detainees remain under the control of United States forces.
32. On 10 July, the Government submitted Afghanistan’s first progress report on implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. On 28 July, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women responded, recognizing the progress in Afghanistan over the past decade. The continued low level of women’s participation in major national decision-making processes was, however, noted, with only nine women belonging to the 70-member High Peace Council. Concern was expressed over the recent reduction in quotas for women in local elected bodies and lack of participation in the judiciary, including the Supreme Court.
33. In a troubling development in ensuring Constitutional commitments to gender equality, on 20 June the Wolesi Jirga passed a new Criminal Procedure Code which bars the questioning of relatives of the accused and stipulates that upon the withdrawal of a victim’s complaint, the case is closed. This may disproportionately affect cases of domestic violence where witnesses are usually family members and there is great pressure on victims to rescind. The bill has been submitted to the Meshrano Jirga for consideration. On 2 July, the Court of Appeal overturned a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment for attempted murder against three relatives of a young woman severely tortured in 2010 in a case that had captured global attention. The perpetrators were instead sentenced to three months in jail for bodily harm and, having already served more than a year, were immediately released. This decision is the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, UNAMA monitoring reveals that the number of women and girls prosecuted for moral crimes has risen despite the Supreme Court and the Office of the Attorney General having issued three directives stating that running away from home is not a crime. It appears that criminalization of the act still occurs, or that prosecutors use charges of attempted adultery instead, with 450 women and girls imprisoned in 2012 and 600 so far in 2013.
34. UNAMA and the United Nations system in Afghanistan have worked to increase awareness of the Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security. Civil society workshops were organized in Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, two in Nangarhar, Bamyan and Kabul.
UNAMA reports on the protection of civilians in armed conflict
UNAMA reports on women's rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - Afghanistan pages
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict