Afghanistan had poor rights record: Human Rights Watch

Kabul, Jan 27 (IANS) Afghanistan’s new national unity government failed to make significant gains in achieving human rights reforms in 2015, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2016.

Little progress was made in reining in abusive militias, reducing corruption, promoting women’s rights and reforming the courts, it said in a 659-page report.

“Afghanistan’s national unity government squandered important opportunities to tackle serious human rights problems,” said Patricia Gossman, senior Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“As reforms have slipped, so have essential human rights protections for detainees, women, and the media. Donors will need to work more closely with the Afghan government to ensure that the fragile gains of the past 14 years aren’t lost.”

During the past year, the government struggled to overcome internal divisions and conflicts with local strongmen and power brokers, it said.

Infighting among government institutions jeopardized the broader reform agenda, it said. Abuses by government security forces and advances by the Taliban further undermined public confidence in the government.

As fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces escalated in 2015, the government took steps that jeopardized fundamental rights protections, notably by expanding the Afghan Local Police, a militia with a record of rape, extortion and unlawful killings.

With the Taliban appearing fractured, splinter groups and other insurgents increasingly carried out indiscriminate attacks against civilians.

These included armed groups affiliating themselves with the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), which were responsible for kidnappings and attacks that killed several hundred civilians.

Human Rights Watch also said that the Afghan government took some positive steps to address longstanding human rights concerns.

It also launched an action plan to curb torture and enact legislation criminalizing the recruitment of child soldiers.

However, the action plan remained stalled at year’s end, and impunity for both torture and recruiting underage soldiers continued.

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