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Targeted killings taking serious toll on civil society and media: UN report

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(Last Updated On: February 15, 2021)

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said Monday that human rights and media space in Afghanistan has contracted in the past few months as a result of the sharp increase in targeted attacks against professionals in these two sectors. 

In a report issued Monday by UNAMA, analysis shows that since the start of peace talks in Doha, on September 12 last year, until January 31, 11 human rights defenders and media workers have been killed in targeted attacks. 

The new report analyses data and trends connected to the killings and traces the changing patterns of attacks on these key sectors and provides recommendations.

UNAMA stated in the report that “this trend, combined with the absence of claims of responsibility, has generated a climate of fear among the population.”

In addition, research found that human rights and media space has contracted as a result, with many professionals exercising self-censorship in their work, quitting their jobs, and leaving their homes and communities with hopes it will improve their safety. Many, including high profile personalities, have fled the country. 

“The killings have had the broader impact across society of also diminishing expectations around efforts towards peace,” a UNAMA statement read.

“The Afghan people need and deserve a flourishing civic space – a society where people can think, write and voice their views openly, without fear,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. 

“The voices of human rights defenders and the media are critical for any open and decent society. At a time when dialogue and an end to the conflict through talks and political settlement should be the focus, the voices from human rights and the media need to be heard more than ever before, instead, they are being silenced,” said the envoy, who is also head of UNAMA.

UNAMA stated that one of the key trends to emerge in the past few months is that attacks against representatives of the human rights and media sectors in Afghanistan are clearly “intentional, premeditated and deliberate targeting of individuals with perpetrators remaining anonymous.” This contrasts to previous years. 

The report also records a total of 65 human rights defenders and media professionals killed in the period from 1 January 2018 to 31 January 2021; 32 from the human rights sector and 33 from the media. 

Of these, 11 (five human rights defenders and six media) were killed in the four-month period from 1 October 2020 – 31 January 2021 alone, the statement read.

The report notes that as they work to provide timely information to the population of Afghanistan on a range of issues (including violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law), human rights defenders, journalists and media workers are far too often exposed to threats, intimidation, harassment, surveillance or arbitrary detention.

A series of recommendations to both state and non-state actors are contained in the report.

Recommendations made to the Afghan government include the establishment of an effective and cooperative national protection mechanism under the leadership of the Second Vice President Sarwar Danish. 

Also for an adequate preventive framework, including special protective and proactive security measures for human rights defenders, journalists and media workers, to be put into place. 

UNAMA also called for assurances that human rights defenders, journalists, and media workers can continue their legitimate rights to life, freedom of association, freedom of expression and access to information, as well as other fundamental freedoms, without fear of reprisal or attack.

Key among the recommendations was counter impunity, including by conducting independent, impartial, prompt, thorough, effective, credible and transparent investigations into killings and that genuine accountability, and prosecuting of suspects follow due legal process. 

Recommendations to insurgent groups included the call for them to cease all killings of human rights defenders, journalists and media workers, in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law.

For the Taliban in particular, UNAMA called on them to condemn, at the leadership level, the killings of human rights defenders, journalists and media workers.

UNAMA also called on the group to investigate cases where Taliban members are alleged to have been involved and hold to account Taliban members that order or implement the killings of human rights defenders, journalists and media workers.

The group was also encouraged to adopt, publicize and enforce policies that prohibit the killings of human rights defenders, journalists and media workers and to repeal existing policies (and refrain from adopting new ones) limiting civic space, including restrictions to freedom of association, the work of civil society and humanitarian actors, and freedom of expression.

The international community was also called on to assist with the problem. 

UNAMA urged them to continue condemning the killing of human rights defenders and media professionals, and to underscore the importance of the role of human rights defenders and independent media for a unified, sovereign, peaceful and democratic Afghanistan.

UNAMA also encouraged the international community to increase support to programs that provide security, travel, financial, capacity building and other assistance to them.

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Nearly 900,000 children in Afghanistan suffer from excessive weight loss

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(Last Updated On: December 7, 2022)

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced that it urgently needs help to treat children and deal with the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, UNICEF announced that about 875,000 children in Afghanistan suffer from excessive weight loss. The children’s charity says it needs help to treat children and prevent further malnutrition in 2023.

On the other hand, UNICEF announced on Tuesday through a humanitarian appeal that children are facing a historic confluence of crises around the world.

The agency has requested $10.3 billion for 2023 to address the plight of 110 million children worldwide.

Recently, the United Nations announced that 97 percent of the Afghan population lives below the poverty line.

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IEA defense minister meets Dubai ruler, US envoy

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(Last Updated On: December 7, 2022)

Acting Defense Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mawlavi Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai on Tuesday.

Mujahid also met with Afghan businessmen based in the UAE, the ministry said in a statement.

In his meeting with the Dubai ruler, both sides discussed the strengthening of ties between Afghanistan and the UAE and the facilitation of business services for businessmen and other important issues, said the statement.

In addition, Mujahid met with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Tomas West in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

According to a statement, both sides discussed the current situation in Afghanistan.

Mujahid assured the US Special Representative that all the borders are secure in Afghanistan, saying that there is no threat from Afghan territory to the countries of the region and the world.

Afghan soil has never been used against any other country and never will be used, said Mujahid

He also told West that the world should respect the territorial integrity of Afghanistan.

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West, Abdullah discuss ‘urgent need’ for political dialogue among Afghans

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2022)

US special envoy for Afghanistan, Thomas West, said on Tuesday he met with Abdullah Abdullah, the former head of Afghanistan’s reconciliation council, in India and discussed the “urgent need” for national political dialogue among Afghans.

West said on Twitter that there is consensus among the international community on the need for political dialogue among Afghans.

“There is consensus in int’l community on this imperative, which Afghans must lead and shape,” West said.

During his visit to India, West also met with Indian officials including Deputy National Security Adviser Vikram Misri and foreign ministry’s joint secretary JP Singh

“As fellow friend of Afghan people, US deeply appreciates India’s generous humanitarian support and commitment to Afghans’ fundamental rights,” West said.

This comes after the head of an IEA commission working for the return of former officials recently suggested that there is no need for a national political dialogue.

“We should join hands and build our country. Everything is fine. Every Afghan has got the right to serve in their country. There is no need to launch a new process and undermine security,” Shahabuddin Delawar said.

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