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Human rights in Afghanistan


Human rights in Afghanistan

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Foreign relations

Human rights in Afghanistan is a topic of some controversy and conflict. While the Taliban were well known for numerous human rights abuses, several human rights violations continue to take place in the post-Taliban government era.


  • Post Taliban 1
    • Torture Agreement 1.1
    • Elections during combat 1.2
  • Law and order 2
  • Freedom of speech and the media 3
  • Religious freedom 4
  • Women's rights 5
  • Sexual orientation 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Post Taliban

The Bonn Agreement of 2001 established the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) as a national human rights institution to protect and promote human rights and to investigate human rights abuses and war crimes. The Afghanistan Constitution of 2004 entrenched the existence of the AIHRC. While the ongoing turmoil, violence and reconstruction efforts often make it difficult to get an accurate sense of what is going on, various reports from NGOs have accused various branches of the Afghan government of engaging in human rights violations. There have also been various human rights abuses by American soldiers on Afghan civilians, most notably in the Baghram prisons where innocent civilians endured torture, humiliating conditions, and inhumane treatment. The United States was heavily criticized for lenient sentencing for the soldiers responsible.[1] Former Afghan warlords and political strongmen supported by the US during the ousting of the Taliban were responsible for numerous human rights violations in 2003 including kidnapping, rape, robbery, and extortion.[2]

Torture Agreement

In March 2002, ABC News claimed top officials at the CIA authorized controversial, harsh interrogation techniques.[3] The possible interrogation techniques included shaking and slapping, shackling prisoners in a standing position, keeping the prisoner in a cold cell and dousing them with water, and water boarding.[3] A United Nations study in 2011 reported on interviews with 379 detainees. It found those held by police or intelligence services were subjected to beatings, removal of toenails and electric shocks.[4]

Elections during combat

Several elections have been held in Afghanistan since 2001. The most recent election was held 18 September 2010, for the Afghan Parliament with a reported 2,499 candidates competing for 250 seats. During the elections[5] the Taliban attacked many of those involved, killing 11 civilians and 3 Afghan National Policemen in over 300 attacks on the polls.[6] The low death toll at the hands of the Taliban can be attributed to stepped up operations specifically targeting the leaders of insurgents planning attacks in the days leading up to the elections.[7][8] which captured hundreds of insurgents and explosives. Turnout at election was 40%.

Law and order

The National Security Directorate, Afghanistan's national security agency, has been accused of running its own prisons, torturing suspects, and harassing journalists. The security forces of local militias, which also have their own prisons, have been accused of torture and arbitrary killings. Warlords in the north have used property destruction, rape, and murder to discourage displaced Pashtuns from reclaiming their homes. Child labor and human trafficking remain common outside Kabul. Civilians frequently have been killed in battles between warlord forces. Poor conditions in the overcrowded prisons have contributed to illness and death amongst prisoners; a prison rehabilitation program began in 2003.

In the absence of an effective national judicial system, the right to judicial protection has been compromised as uneven local standards have prevailed in criminal trials. Fair trial principles are enshrined in the Afghan constitution and the criminal procedure but frequently violated for various reasons, including the lack of well-educated, professional staff (especially defence lawyers), lack of material resources, corruption and unlawful interference by warlords and politicians.[9]

Freedom of speech and the media

The government has limited freedom of the media by selective crackdowns that invoke Islamic law and has encouraged self-censorship. The media remain substantially government-owned. The nominally lesser restrictions of the 2004 media law have been criticized by journalists and legal experts, and harassment and threats continued after its passage, especially outside Kabul.

Religious freedom

No registration of religious groups is required; minority religious groups are able to practice freely but not to proselytize. Islam is the official religion; all law must be compatible with Islamic morality, and the President and Vice President must be Muslims.

Apostasy remains officially punishable by death, per the Constitution of Afghanistan. In 2006, Abdul Rahman, an Afghan Muslim who had been arrested for converting to Christianity, was granted presidential permission to leave the country, and moved to Italy, where he received asylum.[10] In 2014, an Afghan Muslim who had renounced Islam and become an atheist was granted asylum in the United Kingdom, on the grounds that he could face death if he returned to his country of origin.[11]

Women's rights

Women voting in Kabul at first presidential election in Afghan history, October 2004

The Constitution promises equal rights for men and women, and women are permitted to work outside the home, to engage in political activity, and the Constitution requires each political party to nominate a certain number of female candidates.

During the time of Taliban rule, women had virtually all their rights taken away. Matters ranging from wearing nail polish to job opportunities were severely restricted. By keeping women indoors, the Taliban claimed to be keeping them safe from harm.

In late March 2009, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed into law an internationally condemned "Shia Family Law" which condones apparent spousal rape (in Article 132), child marriage and imposes purdah on married Afghan women. Although the offending legislation is said to have been dormant for a year, President Karzai was trying to gain the support of Afghan northern Shia legislators and the neighbouring Islamic Republic of Iran, which is Shia-dominated. According to Britain's Independent newspaper, the 'family code' was not read in the Upper House/Senate, and also enshrines gender discrimination in inheritance law and divorce against women [1]

Sexual orientation

Homosexuality and cross-dressing were capital crimes under the Taliban, but seem to have been reduced to crimes punished by long prison sentences.

See also


  1. ^ "'"Afghan abuse sentence 'lenient. BBC News. 25 August 2005. 
  2. ^ Afghanistan: Warlords Implicated in New Abuses 29 July 2003
  3. ^ a b "ABC News: CIA's Harsh Interrogation Techniques Described". 
  4. ^ Kelly, Jeremy (10 October 2011). "Afghanistan officials 'systematically tortured' detainees, says UN report". The Guardian (Kabul). Retrieved 10 October 2011. Interviews with 379 people held by police or intelligence services describe beatings, removing toenails and electric shocks 
  5. ^ Afghan Journal: Heroes & Demons September 2010
  6. ^ Afghanistan: Taliban Elect Explosives 18 September 2010
  7. ^ "War In Afghanistan News". 18 September 2010. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "War In Afghanistan News 17 September 2010". 17 September 2010. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  9. ^ See Tilmann J. Röder, ‘Human Rights Standards in Afghan Courtrooms: The Theory and Reality of the Right to a Fair Trial’, in: ‘Islam and Human Rights’, ed. by H. Elliesie, Peter Lang Verlag (Frankfurt am Main) 2010.
  10. ^ "Afghan convert arrives in Italy for asylum", CNN, 29 March 2006
  11. ^ "Atheist Afghan granted religious asylum in UK", BBC, 14 January 2014
  • Life Under the Taliban, by Stewart, Gail B.

External links

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