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UNAMAUnited Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
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 Human Rights
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 9 September 2014 provides an update of UNAMA human right activities since 18 June 2013, listed below. For a full copy of the latest report, click here.

III. Human rights

34. On 9 July UNAMA released its mid-year report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which covers the period from 1 January to 30 June 2014. In the report, UNAMA documented 1,564 civilian deaths and 3,289 civilian injuries (4,853 civilian casualties), an increase of 24 per cent over the same period in 2013. It attributed 74 per cent of the casualties to anti-Government elements and 9 per cent to pro-Government forces, with 12 per cent occurring during ground engagements between both parties where the perpetrator could not be determined. UNAMA also noted that ground engagements, including small arms, rockets and mortar fire, had become the leading cause of civilian casualties, particularly for women and children, reflecting an increase of 89 per cent in casualties documented from ground engagements and accounting for 39 per cent of all civilian casualties in the first six months of 2014. The use of improvised explosive devices had also increased by 7 per cent, causing 463 civilian deaths and 1,000 injuries (1,463 civilian casualties), the highest figure for the tactic since 2009. UNAMA also noted the resurgence of the use of indiscriminate pressure-plate improvised explosive devices, which had killed 161 civilians and injured another 147 (308 civilian casualties), an increase of 33 per cent over the same period in 2013. It observed that the Taliban had directly claimed responsibility for 147 attacks, which had resulted in 234 civilian deaths and 319 civilian injuries (553 civilian casualties). Taliban fighters appeared to direct 75 of such attacks at military targets, indiscriminately harming civilians, while 69 attacks deliberately targeted civilian objectives. UNAMA also documented 22 civilian deaths and 29 civilian injuries (51 civilian casualties) attributed to Afghan local police ground engagements and human rights violations, on a par with the same period in 2013. Although some instances of arrests and convictions regarding such violations were recorded, impunity remained the norm.

35. Between 1 June and 15 August, UNAMA documented 2,891 civilian casualties (956 killed, 1,935 injured), caused mainly by ground engagements (282 killed, 898 injured), improvised explosive devices (265 killed, 617 injured) and suicide and complex attacks (95 killed, 249 injured). Women and children constituted 28 per cent of casualties. Anti-Government elements were deemed to cause 75 per cent of all civilian casualties during this period, while pro-Government forces were responsible for 8 per cent; 15 per cent were attributed to ground engagements between both parties, with the remaining casualties unattributed or caused by cross-border shelling. Violence related to the presidential election run-off also affected the protection of civilians. On 14 June, during the run-off, UNAMA documented 217 civilian casualties (54 deaths, 163 injured), including men and women exercising their right to vote, Commission staff, children and other civilians, resulting from attacks that deliberately targeted the electoral process. In addition to the civilian casualties, UNAMA received reports of 87 police casualties: 21 police were killed and 66 injured, targeted while protecting polling centres or escorting Commission
convoys of electoral materials. On 27 July, the secretariat of the Council of Ministers issued a statement reiterating the importance of protecting the civilian population during security operations and banning the use of heavy weapons in residential and populated areas. The Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of the Interior and the National Directorate of Security were further reminded of the presidential decree issued in February 2013 banning aerial attacks on residential areas to prevent civilian casualties.

36. Between 1 June and 15 August the United Nations-led country task force on monitoring and reporting on children and armed conflict documented 215 incidents that had resulted in the deaths of 158 children and injury to a further 322 children. Most of the child casualties were reported from the eastern region, where 113 children had been killed and injured. Ground engagements were the leading cause of child deaths and injuries, killing 54 children and injuring 180. On the day of the presidential election run-off, 19 children were killed and 57 injured, marking the highest number of child casualties in any one day since the task force had begun documenting child casualties in 2009. It also documented three incidents of underage recruitment and five incidents of child abduction.

37. On 14 July, the United Nations welcomed the progress made in the implementation of the 2011 action plan for the prevention of underage recruitment, including improved age verification and screening of new recruits, and training for the Afghan security forces in respect of children in armed conflict. On 23 July, following a series of meetings with the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Justice, the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict agreed on a “road map towards compliance”. The United Nations coordinated the provision of technical support to the Government in the implementation of the road map. The Mission also undertook a series of advocacy initiatives with governmental and non-governmental interlocutors across the country to support the launch of its booklet on protecting Afghanistan’s children in armed conflict.

38. The Mission continued to provide the Government of Afghanistan with technical support and advice on the elimination of violence against women. In relation to the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework process, UNAMA provided technical support to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for the development of an action plan based on the recommendations of the first government report on implementation of the law on elimination of violence against women. In particular, proposals for a conference on the development of guidelines on mediation in cases of violence against women were incorporated into the plan. The Mission also provided the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with support to strengthen the 2015-2018 national action plan on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000). In addition, as part of the ongoing process of strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of the Interior for the integration of female police officers and their protection from sexual abuse, UNAMA advocated for the creation of an independent complaints mechanism, which has been accepted in principle by the Ministry.

39. On 13 July, a presidential decree was issued confirming the accession by Afghanistan to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. At the same time, Afghanistan’s High
Commission for Combating Human Trafficking established commissions on trafficking at the provincial level, headed by the provincial governor and comprising representatives from relevant ministries. With respect to the decision in December 2013 by the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to defer its decision on the accreditation of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the Commission, on 30 June, provided the Committee with information on how it had been actively addressing the Committee’s concerns about the selection and appointment process for commissioners. Civil society also provided its own submission in support of the Commission.

KEY LINKS

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