Magazine article UN Chronicle

Report on Afghanistan Urges Steps to Normalcy

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Report on Afghanistan Urges Steps to Normalcy

Article excerpt

The Government of Afghanistan "should respect and apply fully the international obligations deriving from international human rights instruments", a Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Commission declared in a report to the Commission.

The human rights situation in Afghanistan had deteriorated since the April 1978 revolution because of "the absence of popular participation in the choice and administration of Government", according to the 50-page report by Special Rapporteur Felix Ermacora (E/CN.4/1985/21).

The "situation of gross violations of human rights" had caused some four million Afghans to flee and seek refuge in several countries, particularly Pakistan, Iran and India, the Special Rapporteur said. "Many lives have been lost, many people have been incarcerated in conditions far removed from respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, many have been tortured and have disappeared, humanitarian norms have been flouted in the conflict taking place, and the resulting situation is fraught with danger for the population as a whole."

"The rule of law must be reestablished in the country" in a manner consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Mrs. Ermacora said.

He recommended that the party in power and the opposition movements should be convened with a view to establishing the traditional Afghan assembly of tribal elders, the Loya Jirgah, or its equivalent "so as to initiate the process of normalization including the withdrawal of the foreign forces" which are "one of the main causes of the present human rights situation".

The "Fundamental Principles" proclaimed by Afghanistan's Revolutionary Council in 1980 provide for eventual establishment of the Loya Jirgah to adopt a constitution, he recalled.

The Special Rapporteur also proposed that:

--The Government should halt "torture against opponents of the regime, which is currently commonplace and which has almost assumed the character of an 'administrative practice'".

--An independent international humanitarian organization such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or others nominated by the parties should be entrusted with ensuring respect for humanitarian principles in the conduct of hostilities. ICRC should have full access to prisons, places of detention, "internal refugee camps" or other places as necessary to carry out humanitarian tasks.

--Members of all forces engaged in the conflict, those of Governments as well as of the opposition, should be recognized as combatants within the framework of international humanitarian law.

--The rights of the four million refugees to return to their homes safely should be respected "and a general amnesty should be formally proclaimed for everyone, regardless of their political opinions".

--The Governments directly involved in Afghanistan's human rights situation "should co-operate fully with the United Nations, in particular in clarifying the fate of missing persons, and should do everything possible, as a matter of urgency, to contribute to the restoration and upholding of human rights in Afghanistan."

Mr. Ermacora noted that Afghanistan had ratified the International Covenants on human rights and had signed the recently adopted Convention against torture.

He observed that "it might be advisable for Afghanistan to consider the possibility of formally committing itself to a policy of non-alignment or even to a status of permanent neutrality under international law, with a view to facilitating the maintenance of its territorial integrity and political independence" and creating conditions "conducive to the respect and guarantee of human rights".


Mr. Ermacora, a professor of law, is a member of Austria's Parliament and a member of the Human Rights Commission's Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on southern Africa. …

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