The human rights situation remains “critical” in Afghanistan despite the Taliban’s ouster 10 years ago, Human Rights Watch said Sunday, accusing Kabul and its Western backers of failing to prioritize rights conditions.
The U.S.-based group said the government had missed opportunities to put the rights of Afghans at the top of the agenda since the Taliban fell from power in the U.S.-led invasion that followed the September 11, 2011 attacks.
“Afghans still struggle, often unsuccessfully, to exercise their basic human rights and freedoms,” HRW said in a report ahead of a major international conference on Afghanistan’s future in Germany’s Bonn this week.
The conference marks 10 years since a gathering in the same city installed the Western-backed administration of President Hamid Karzai, which said human rights – especially those of women – would be a top priority.
“But 10 years later, many basic rights are still ignored or downplayed,” Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, was quoted as saying in the statement.
“While there have been improvements, the rights situation is still dominated by poor governance, lack of rule of law, impunity for militias and police, laws and policies that harm women, and conflict-related abuses.”
The report especially pointed the finger at Afghanistan’s justice system, which it said was so weak that much of the population relies on traditional justice mechanisms and sometimes Taliban courts to resolve disputes.
But these traditional systems perpetuate human rights abuses, it said, with some illegal practices still alive and well.
It said women have taken on more leadership roles since the rule of the Taliban, under whom general repression was particularly brutal towards women. Their lives were heavily curtailed and they faced punishments such as public execution for victims of rape.
But women in the public eye still face threats and even violence, HRW said.
And for ordinary women, in addition to Taliban attacks and threats, the government itself imprisons women for “moral crimes” such as running away from home.
Infant and maternal mortality remain among the world’s highest, the report said.
Meanwhile, in the attempt to establish security, the United States has ended up backing abusive militia commanders and the Afghan Local Police program has created unaccountable armed groups, said HRW.