Statement: Afghanistan's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Afghanistan Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) and CIVICUS welcome the government of Afghanistan's engagement with the UPR process. However, we regret the lack of progress by the Government in implementing the civic space recommendations during the last UPR review, including to ensure effective investigations and accountability of abuse against journalists. Abuses against human rights defenders and journalists continues with impunity. Alarmingly, state institutions have also been implicated in some abuses against media.

During 2018, Afghanistan was the deadliest country for media, with 15 journalists and other media workers killed. In the first five months of 2019, at least five Afghan journalists and media workers were killed and a number of others have been critically wounded in deliberate attacks. We are deeply worried by the recent public threat of attacks issued by the Taliban against media. We call on the Government to stand by the rights of journalists and to protect them as parties negotiate an end to the war.

We note that the Government has taken steps this year to end impunity for the murder of journalists by bringing to trial two cases – that of BBC journalist Ahmad Shah and Kabul News journalist Abdul Manan Arghand, who were both killed in 2018 by unidentified armed men. However, both trials lacked transparency and death sentences were handed to the perpetrators, which are serious human rights concerns. 

Women, victims’ groups and other CSOs have all been sidelined throughout the peace process, representing a significant threat to civic space. We call on the Government to ensure women and independent CSOs have a seat at the negotiation table and meaningfully participate in decision-making. It is the responsibility of the Afghan Government to ensure that women’s rights, victims’ rights and fundamental freedoms of Afghans are protected and respected during all stages of the peace process and in any peace deal.

Mr President, AHRO and CIVICUS call on the Government of Afghanistan to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement these recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society, including women’s groups and journalists.