In their World Report 2016, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday that Afghanistan’s new National Unity Government (NUG) failed to make significant gains in achieving human rights reforms in 2015.
They also said little progress was made in reining in abusive militias, reducing corruption, promoting women’s rights, and reforming the courts.
In the 659-page World Report 2016, its 26th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries.
“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, while infighting among government institutions jeopardized the broader reform agenda. Abuses by government security forces and advances by the Taliban further undermined public confidence in the government, the report stated.
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, HRW said.
“In September, President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree providing for indefinite preventive detention, reversing a long-standing rejection of the abusive practice, which puts detainees at increased risk of torture. The government also announced some measures to reduce civilian casualties during military operations and disarm abusive militias, but the failure to hold security force personnel accountable for violations undermined those efforts,” the report stated.
“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 (Daesh), which were responsible for kidnappings and attacks that killed several hundred civilians.”
The report stated that the Taliban seized a number of district centers and threatened provincial capitals, including Kunduz, which it captured and held for a few days.
During that time, nearly 300 civilians were killed, many as a result of indiscriminate fire by both sides.
“Taliban forces also threatened women’s rights activists and deliberately killed some civilians they accused of working for the government. Afghan government forces reportedly killed a number of Taliban detainees,” the report stated.
But it went on to say the Afghan government took some positive steps to address longstanding human rights concerns, launching an action plan to curb torture and enacting 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.”
The report stated that Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah both affirmed the government’s commitment to preserving and expanding protections for women’s rights, but they failed to take steps to improve enforcement of the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) and to stop prosecutions of so-called moral crimes.
“Atrocities by the Taliban and other insurgents are no excuse for the government to deploy abusive militias or fail to hold the security forces accountable for violations,” Gossman said. “Donors have been all too willing to ignore abuses taking place rather than using their influence with the government to end them.”