Afghanistan: Protect human rights defenders

Against the backdrop of unrelenting civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Amnesty International called on the government to do more to protect human rights defenders as the country’s human rights record was reviewed at the UN Human Rights Council.

At Afghanistan’s Universal Periodic Review last week, member states of the UN Human Rights Council emphasized that the Afghan government needs to do more to introduce a protection mechanism for human rights defenders, implement existing laws, enhance women’s participation, and protect civilians in conflict.

“There have been some welcome advances when it comes to human rights, but there is much more that the Afghan government can do to fulfil its international human rights commitments,” said Samira Hamidi, South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International.

“A key area of concern is the plight of human rights defenders, who face an even more precarious situation even as the threats to them have risen. There is also an urgent need for stronger investigations and prosecutions to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses. And the peace process currently underway must ensure respect for human rights and the rights of victims under international law and other serious violations and abuses of human rights.”

In the first nine months of 2018, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 2,798 civilians were killed and 5,252 injured. The civilian casualties were principally caused by attacks by armed groups but also included airstrikes by government and international forces.

Even as civilian casualties remain near record highs, European countries have continued to forcibly return Afghans in breach of the principle of non-refoulement, putting people at risk of serious human rights violations.

According to a survey published by the International Organization for Migration last May, there are more than 3.5 million displaced people in Afghanistan. One in six Afghans in the country is either an internally displaced person or a returnee.

“It is crucial that the Afghan government make the protection of civilians and support for displaced people a priority. The government must also stop cooperating with forced returns, make clear that returnees are being put in harm’s way, and urge the international community to halt these returns immediately,” said Samira Hamidi.


The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. The UPR is a significant innovation of the Human Rights Council which is based on equal treatment for all countries. It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights.

The Universal Periodic Review information on Afghanistan, can be accessed here.

Amnesty International submitted list of recommendations on the status of human rights in Afghanistan prior to the UPR State Review. The recommendations can be found here.