In the name of Almighty Allah
Implementing human rights, reinforcing civil society and strengthening the rule of
law provide the conditions for a capable state in Afghanistan
An analytical open letter of CSHRN to the President and new government of Afghanistan
The title of the analytical letter of CSHRN contains a hopeful message to the new government of Afghanistan from civil society and human rights defenders. This letter focuses on ways on how to tackle the current problems in the field of human rights in Afghanistan. The goal of this letter is to create the understanding and the base for collaboration between the next government and the Afghan civil society in order to promote human rights and to create respect for the rule of law in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, it has to be mentioned that the role of civil society and its positive influence on the values of human rights have been limited recently. The candidates and the campaigning staff of the presidential election did not focus on human rights issues and the role of civil society in their campaigns. During the last six years, the Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN) organised a number of dialogues on the human rights situation in Afghanistan . These dialogues showed that still an important gap exists between civil society and governmental institutions regarding mutual understanding and collaboration. This issue has been emphasised by CSHRN during the symposiums, conferences and seminars, where representatives of human rights NGOs as well as some state and non state actors were present.
CSHRN addresses this letter to the new government and its leadership in a very difficult time for the Afghan people. It is a time, when terrorists and enemies of human rights would like to restrict the role of civil society and to threaten human rights defenders in Afghanistan.
Popular participation in state building, based on political participation of citizens, is the fundamental right of each Afghan. Democracy is based on human rights with the active role of civil society. Experiences gained during the last eight years in Afghanistan and in the international context show that respect for human rights values provides conditions for endurance, stability and security.
The past eight years offered important possibilities for strengthening civil society in Afghanistan . The new constitution emphasizes the reinforcement of civil society. Equally, the international community plays an important role in supporting civil society as a crucial actor for the new Afghanistan. Progress is happening in the field of civil and political rights in Afghanistan. However, problems in the field of economic, social and cultural rights are prevailing. These shortcomings offer a fruitful ground for an increase of warlordism in Afghanistan and cause corruption and violations of human rights in Afghanistan.
The civil and political liberties should be safeguarded against any kind of threats
Civil liberties including freedom of speech, freedom of associations and peaceful assembly, freedom of media and thoughts, are the main elements of human rights. After the collapse of the Taliban in Afghanistan, some positive steps were taken towards the implementation of these liberties. Pluralism, the creation of different media, unions for journalists and intellectuals, are good examples for the promotion of civil liberties in Afghanistan . But we should not forget that the freedom of speech faces important challenges. Killing of journalists, prosecution of intellectuals, and a lack of prosecution of criminals, who murdered a number of Afghan journalists, represent deplorable examples of these challenges. Meanwhile, the Afghan constitution supports civil liberties and the rights of Afghan citizens to have their opinions.
After eight years of a new order, strongly supported by the international community, people of Afghanistan continue to suffer from the fact that warlords are still in power, restricting the respect for civil liberties of Afghan citizens. CSHRN wants to pass the clear message that having war criminals and violators of human rights in power badly damages the civil rights of the Afghan citizens.
Political liberty is the main element of human rights strengthening democracy in Afghanistan . There are a number of achievements in the field of political liberties. Participation of the Afghan citizens during the first presidential election and the parliamentarian election are major examples in this regard. A big number of political parties were organised in Afghanistan and registered by government institutions. Afghans discuss in public, either directly or indirectly, the political developments in Afghanistan.
However, in the field of political liberties, there exist important challenges. Criminals using their influence in the political, military and economic fields, badly damaged the political participation of Afghan citizens during the elections. The criminals used their money and power to challenge the political liberties of which fair and democratic elections of the new Afghan institutions are part. CSHRN would like to emphasize that the new government should produce a useful strategy to support civil and political liberties for Afghan citizens. An efficient and understandable program for the promotion of civil and political rights should be developed.
Access to information as a main tool for creating informed citizens should be legalised
Access to information should become one of the fundamental mechanisms for the Afghan citizens to become aware of their rights and obligations in society. CSHRN believes that access to information creates informed citizens who deliberately decide to support a transparent and accountable state. Access to information provides the conditions for the implementation and respect for law in Afghanistan. Through access to information, Afghan citizens will become aware of their responsibilities with regard to law and order.
Access to information will pave the way for the implementation of human rights in Afghanistan. The state, who is the responsible body to implement human rights, will inform the citizens about its resources and possibilities available for carrying out its responsibilities. The public administration as direct link between the citizens and the government will be the main source for providing information to the Afghan citizens in big cities but also in remote areas. The information provided will cover economic, social, cultural and political elements in Afghanistan . The recent elections for the president as well as the local authorities show that one reason for fraud and violations of procedures are caused by a lack of informed citizens. The citizens did not receive information about the programs of the candidates, the role of the state and the role of their votes for the democratisation process in Afghanistan . CSHRN believes that a law on access to information would provide the condition for disseminating information about the rights and responsibilities of citizens. CSHRN suggests that the new leadership and government of Afghanistan support civil society in the formalisation of an access to information act.
Implementation of economic, social and cultural rights is the best tool for reducing extremism in Afghanistan
The Afghan citizens are badly suffering from a lack of realization of their economic rights. This lack damages the economic development of Afghan families and it also increases the level of poverty. One of the main reasons for this problem is the lack of adequate programs and strategies to create jobs for Afghan citizens. That is why young Afghans who do not find the possibility to work in the country, can be misused by fundamentalists by mobilizing them for their forces. Being out of work is the main reason for organized crime, corruption and the spread of narcotics in society. CSHRN believes that one of the best ways to struggle against human rights violations is to pay more attention to the economic rights of Afghan citizens. CSHRN suggests that the new government of Afghanistan works together with civil society and the private sector to create more favourite conditions for jobs and opportunities for a positive engagement of the young generation.
CSHRN believes that the Afghan government has to take some positive steps in the field of social rights. Increased access to health care and education for Afghan children are good examples for this. However, important challenges still exist regarding these rights. A lack of logistics and equipments for thousands of Afghan women in remote areas are the main reasons for a high level of female deaths during pregnancy. The right to life is the major element of human rights for each human being.
The right to education is also faced by major obstacles. The low salary of teachers, the lack of school facilities in remote areas, and the lack of security for Afghan girls are the main shortcomings. The Afghan government has signed international conventions which protect and support Afghan children, but there is a lack of strategies to implement the conventions by the Afghan government. CSHRN suggests working with the Afghan government in order to develop a strategy promoting the right to education through its member organisations.
Cultural rights constitute also a basic human right. We have not had many achievements in this field so far. Afghanistan is a historical country with a rich culture. A lack of useful programs for the respect for different cultures including languages and traditions, are the main problems of the current situation. A domination of ideologies has badly damaged the development of cultural programs. CSHRN would like to suggest that the new Afghan government pays special attention to the Ministry of Culture and Information and provides it with additional human capacities and resources.
Justice is a precondition of security
Security without justice is not a realistic state in society. Experiences throughout the world show that if criminals and violators of human rights are not prosecuted, the values of human rights will never be implemented. During the last 30 years, the Afghans suffered different kinds of violations of their basic rights. That is why transitional justice is an important precondition for the respect of human rights in Afghanistan.
During a national conference on transitional justice, CSHRN suggested a strategy of five steps for the implementation of transitional justice in Afghanistan. The first step raises the awareness on transitional justice. The Afghan population will get information about the meaning of transitional justice. As many Afghans believe that transitional justice means revenge of crimes, it is very necessary to make the meaning of transitional justice understood. The second step is the identification of actors. In this period, the institutions and individuals who are interested in supporting transitional justice will become acquainted with their roles, sources, and abilities for working in the field of transitional justice in Afghanistan. In this period, the understanding between governmental and nongovernmental organisations working for transitional justice is very important. The third step comprises the capacity building process. After having identified the processes, the actors working for transitional justice will get supported in increasing their capacities by international supporters. The fourth step deals with the empowerment of the Afghans to claim ownership of the transitional justice programs. The Afghan institutions having received the capacity, understanding and resources, are able to work together to create ownership for the project. This ownership is a very important issue as Afghans should understand the consequences of transitional justice for their society. The fifth step is about the creation of programs and their implementation. In this stage, the Afghans are able to create a useful strategy for the implementation of the program. CSHRN believes that without having these five step strategy, the transitional justice program cannot be implemented properly. That is why CSHRN suggests to the new government to open the door for dialogues and discourses in the field of transitional justice.
Reducing violence against women paves the way for the respect for women rights in Afghanistan
Domestic violence is one of the main challenges of human rights in Afghanistan . According to the member organisations of CSHRN, family violence is the result of social problems in Afghanistan . A lack of adequate social, economic and cultural programs for Afghan women reflect the domestic problems in Afghan families. Domestic violence creates also dire consequences for political violence in the country. For a reduction of domestic violence, it is very important that the Afghan government works together with civil society, media, academics institutions and Afghan intellectuals to organise national campaigns. For this reason CSHRN organizes joint campaigns in the western provinces of Afghanistan to reduce the level of family violence in this region. We would like to invite the new Afghan government to join us and to support the program of CSHRN.
After the collapse of the Taliban, a number of achievements have been reached by the Afghan state in the field of woman rights. The creation of the Ministry of Women Affairs, the activation of women associations, schools and universities for women, and an increase in the participation of women in state structures are positive examples. However, many challenges remain regarding the role of women in the Afghan society. One major problem for Afghan women is the lack of security and stability. Because of the insecure situation, especially in remote provinces, Afghan women can hardly participate in the economic, social and cultural affairs of the Afghan society. This situation weakens consequently the independence of women with regard to their male family members. A second challenge is the domination of warlords and war criminals in the remote areas of Afghanistan . They humiliate women, rape them, and show an inhuman behaviour towards the participation of women in society. That is the reason for women becoming the main victims of human rights abuses. The lack of literacy among women is another big issue in Afghanistan . The new Afghan government should support Afghan families in having access to education for women. The new Afghan government should equally not accept that the dignity of women becomes victimised in the negotiations between the government and the enemy of the state. CSHRN would like to support the new legislation on reducing violence against women and would like to invite all human rights defenders to join the campaign to reduce domestic violence in Afghanistan . CSHRN would like to produce material and working teams to reduce domestic violence in Afghanistan.
The implementation of the rights of children should be a priority for the new government of Afghanistan
The future of nations depends on what kinds of programs are done for the children. The Afghan state has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights, but unfortunately, the goals and programs of the convention have not been translated into the national legislation. Afghan children are still faced with a lot of problems such as child labour, sexual abuses, trafficking, kidnapping, selling of their organs, the whole street children problem, lack of shelter, educational opportunities, access to health care, and cultural programs. According to the analytical symposium of CSHRN on domestic violence, children are the main victims of domestic violence. CSHRN would like to emphasize that a new government should pay special attention to improve the standards of education in the schools, to organise useful cultural programs for Afghan families and to educate parents to respect their children. CSHRN would like to ask stakeholders in the field of the children rights to support a national campaign for the respect of the rights of children.
Access to justice
According to the constitution of Afghanistan , the Afghan citizens should have access to fair justice mechanisms. According to the constitution, each Afghan citizen should have access to a lawyer and to lawful and technical assistance during his or her legal case. This article of the constitution emphasizes that the legal and judicial system of Afghanistan should work in an independent manner, allowing for a professional, fair and transparent trial. Unfortunately, these norms are not applied during the judicial procedures. In some cases, the impartiality of dealing with the cases are badly influenced by political aspects. Sometimes, the cases are brought to a end through non-transparent mechanisms. This damages transparency and professionalism of the judicial system which are the main principles of the rule of law. During the last eight years, we witnessed a number of cases where major criminals were able to escape from their judgement through these mechanisms. At the same time, we also witnessed that some Afghan citizens have been punished for very minor offences. The new government of Afghanistan should pay attention to professionalize the institutions and the respect for the independence of the judicial system of Afghanistan.
The presence of international military forces in Afghanistan to support the new democratic principles in Afghanistan is appreciated by the Afghan citizens. The people understand that the role of the international community is to support Afghanistan in overcoming the most important problems in the history of Afghanistan . The Afghan people need the support of the international community and they respect the role of the humanitarian assistance by the international community to poor Afghans. It is however equally important that the international troops in Afghanistan respect the life of Afghan people. The military operations of the international troops in Afghanistan caused the death of many innocent Afghans. According to the Geneva Conventions from 1949, the international military operations have to be conducted in such a way that civilian victims are avoided as much as possible. CSHRN released statements regarding the respect for Afghan civilians during the operations to Afghan and international military forces. Recently, the Afghans and the international military forces adopted a strategy to greatly reduce civilian victims. This has been deeply appreciated by the Afghan civil society. However, despite its adoption, this new strategy has not yet been implemented and the civilian deaths remain high. CSHRN asks the new Afghan government to work in a more close and constructive way with their international partners to actually implement the new strategies.
Human rights should be reflected in domestic, foreign and international policies concerning Afghanistan
The second chapter of the Afghan constitution deals with human rights. According to the constitution, human rights should be integrated into the national and international policies of the new Afghan government. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be respected and the standards of the international conventions ratified by the Afghan state should be integrated into the national legislation. CSHRN would like to ask the new government and the Afghan parliament to pay great attention to translate and integrate the values of international human rights into the national legislation, policies and programs of institutions such as the police, courts, prosecution offices, judicial mechanisms, women affairs, foreign affairs and children affairs. We would like to ask the new Afghan government to activate mechanisms of reporting to international human rights institutions. Furthermore, mechanisms for monitoring the respect for human rights principles should be created by the incoming government.
The issues of Afghan people who are displaced, immigrants or refugees
Afghan internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees are a consequence of domestic and regional conflicts. Afghanistan has nine million refugees which is the highest number of refugees from one nation all over the world. The majority of these refugees are currently in the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Iran . According to reports of international human rights organisations, the Afghan refugees are exposed to different human rights violations. Terrorists mobilise their forces from the Afghan refugees. The neighbouring countries are also violating the rights of refugees at the border between Afghanistan , Pakistan and Iran . CSHRN would like the new government to organise a national program for the rehabilitation of refugees in Afghanistan . The returnees should be received with rehabilitation programs; the creation of jobs, shelters, schools and clinics are the main elements of the reconstruction of the lives of returnees in Afghanistan . To tackle such a huge issue, the support of the international community is needed. The Afghan civil society would like to ask the international community to support the new government in Afghanistan . Members of CSHRN would like to appreciate the role of the United Nation bodies in supporting the Ministry of Refugees and Returnees to make useful policies dealing with this issue.
C ivil society as understood in today’s context is a new phenomenon in Afghanistan . After the collapse of the Taliban, the Bonn Agreement emphasized the role of civil society in building a new Afghanistan . The international community supported the building of a new Afghanistan by ensuring the possibility of civil society to link the Afghan citizens with the Afghan state. The existence of the Afghan civil society is also supported by the Afghan legislation, what is a major achievement for the future role of civil society role. The second chapter of the Afghan constitution recognizes the role of civil society in promoting human rights in Afghanistan . The international community, in particular the countries of the EU, paid a lot of attention to strengthen the role of civil society. The level of support to civil society is however rather low if compared with the international support provided to the Afghan government. Despite this, the Afghan civil society managed to emerge as an actor to be taken seriously during the last eight years and was able to realize some achievements. A number of communications and dialogues between civil society and the Afghan government were organized. Civil society conveyed the message of citizens to the state institutions, but the messages were not always welcomed. That is why CSHRN would like to ask the new government and leadership of Afghanistan to work in a more participatory manner with the representatives of civil society and to include them in the policy making. Civil society should be accepted as a constructive partner for the new Afghan government.
The rule of law
The rule of law is the guarant for the implementation of human rights in Afghanistan. The implementation of the legislation promotes a culture of respect for law including human rights. Respect for the law should be a first priority for the government. If the government does not respect the law, we should not expect that the public administration will implement it. Respect for the rule of law will reduce the role of warlords in the new structure of Afghanistan . CSHRN believes that the promotion of respect for rule of law will decrease the level of corruption on the one hand and increase the level of transparency, accountability and good governance on the other. CSHRN will do its best to promote rule of law and respect for rule of law within its structure. CSHRN hopes that the civil society and the new government will jointly disseminate information about the importance of the rule of law in Afghanistan.
To improve the respect for civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights is the responsibility of all Afghans. The cooperation and participation of the whole Afghan nation is needed, coexistence, general understanding, and proper dialogue are necessary to work on realizing these rights and to overcome the obstacles, any other approach would not be realistic. The Afghan people need reconciliation and understanding in this crucial period of time. The understanding between the government and the Afghan civil society and citizens is a main precondition for dealing with our common problem. CSHRN understands the huge challenges faced by the new government. That is why it invites all Afghans to work together for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan. CSHRN in the name of its members would like to do its best to support a stable, transparent and accountable state in Afghanistan.