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AFGHANISTAN: Rights watchdog appeals to president

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KABUL, 11 September 2007 (IRIN) – Afghanistan’s leading human rights watchdog has called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to use his constitutional authority to protect the body’s independence after a majority of MPs in the lower house voted to restrict its autonomy.

The powerful Wolesi Jirga (lower house) of the country’s bicameral national assembly – dominated by warlords and former militia leaders – has voted in favour of parliament having the final say on the appointment of all nine commissioners of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), including its chairperson.

So far only the lower house has voted on this. All bills need bicameral approval and presidential assent before becoming law.

Rights activists say the move is aimed at curtailing the freedom of Afghanistan’s national human rights institution, which was set up to monitor, investigate and report current and past human rights violations in the country.

The rights watchdog is described as “independent” in Article 58 of Afghanistan constitution.

“We want the president to ensure the implementation of constitutional principles and protect the independence of the human rights commission,” Mohammad Farid Hamidi, a member of the AIHRC, told IRIN.

Afghanistan would be breaching its national and international commitments with regard to human rights and other democratic values should MPs in the Wolesi Jirga get their way, Hamidi said.

“Stooge”

Controversial individual MPs have reportedly labelled the watchdog “a stooge in the hands of foreigners” and have condemned its efforts to investigate past human rights violations in the country.

The MPs who voted for the subordination of the AIHRC to parliament accuse the watchdog of political and ethnic bias.

“The human rights commission has repeatedly deviated from its mandate by siding with favoured sectarian and political groups,” said Amanullah Paiman, an MP.

“Anybody who is working for human rights in one of a number of sensitive areas, whether that is women’s rights or anything that touches on corruption or on transitional justice, is likely to be threatened,” said Andrew Anderson, deputy director of Frontline Defenders, a Dublin-based organisation dealing with the protection of human rights activists around the world.

Reforms blocked

Immediately after the Taliban regime was toppled by a US-led coalition in October 2001, Afghan militia leaders, who had fought against the Taliban and called themselves Mujahedin, were invited to form a new government for Afghanistan.

Almost six years on Mujahedin leaders still dominate decision-making in the country and have consistently blocked reform efforts, say analysts.

In an effort to shed light on numerous crimes in Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion in 1979, the AIHRC, backed by the UN, approved an action plan for the implementation of transitional justice in the country in December 2005.

The action plan, however, lacks political commitment from the Afghan government and is yet to see any meaningful progress, say rights defenders.

There cannot be good prospects for enduring peace and progress in Afghanistan without justice, Anderson told IRIN.

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Written by afghandevnews

September 11, 2007 at 1:14 am

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