Rights activists on Friday criticized the Afghan government for suspending a political party, warning against a “dangerous” trend of limiting freedoms as NATO forces depart.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was the first time that a party had been barred because of its views since the fall of the hardline Taliban regime in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
The Solidarity Party of Afghanistan was suspended earlier this month after demonstrating in Kabul in late April for the prosecution of alleged former warlords and war crimes suspects now in key positions of power.
HRW urged Kabul to lift the suspension, saying it violated Afghan and international law on the right to freedom of expression.
Solidarity was set up in 2004 and has no lawmakers in parliament, but HRW said it regularly organized street protests on contentious issues such as the U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan.
Solidarity spokesman Mahmood Faiez said the party was right to speak out.
“We demand the prosecution of these criminals, as it is the wishes of all Afghans who were the victims,” he told AFP.
Around 130,000 U.S.-led NATO troops are in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban, but the majority of them are due to leave by the end of 2014.
There are increasing fears about security and the protection of human rights after NATO hands over responsibility to Afghan security forces.
HRW Afghanistan researcher Heather Barr said the work of journalists and researchers had become more difficult over the past year and the government was restricting access to institutions such as prisons and women’s shelters.
“The large international presence here has probably provided some pressure in terms of freedom of information and freedom of speech, and now that presence is in decline we are seeing the government’s real views,” she told AFP.
This is a really dangerous sign when the government starts to attack political parties -- we have seen it in other countries but not here before.”