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UN experts call on Afghanistan to prevent further killings of human rights defenders

GENEVA (14 August 2020) – Afghanistan must take early decisive action to prevent killings of human rights defenders, UN human rights experts* said today, calling attention to a recent spate of such deaths.

"The killing of one human rights defender is a tragedy for society; the death of nine defenders since the beginning of this year shows the emergence of a truly alarming trend," said Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. "Already by August, Afghanistan has far exceeded last year's figures."

"Impunity allows the perpetuation of such crimes and implies a lack of recognition for human rights defenders' role in society," the experts said, noting that investigations in many cases have not yet yielded any results. "There needs to be full accountability for such egregious violations of human rights."

Asmatullah Salaam, who worked on promoting the right to education in the province of Ghazni, was abducted and killed as he made his way to celebrate Eid with his family on 1 August. His death comes not long after Fatimah Natasha Khalil and Ahmad Jawed Folad were killed on their way to work at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission on 27 June. Human rights defender Ibrahim Ebrat was shot dead in Zabul in May.

"In January the Government of Afghanistan voiced support for the idea of creating a national protection mechanism for human rights defenders, but no progress has been reported and clearly defenders are still no better protected than they were before," said the experts. "We urge the government to urgently put in place, as promised, an effective national protection mechanism."

It is the responsibility of every government to protect human rights defenders against armed groups, they added.

"Afghanistan must do better at detecting and acting on early warning signs, such as threats and intimidation, protecting others who find themselves at risk, and thoroughly investigating violence, including killings, when they happen," they said.  "We cannot allow these disturbing events to continue."

The experts said they are talking with Afghanistan authorities, and pledged to closely monitor the situation.

ENDS

*THE EXPERTS: Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association; Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: Afghanistan

For more information and media requests please contact Adriana Zarraluqui (+41 22 917 9965 /azarraluqui@ohchr.org) or write to defenders@ohchr.org

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Ms Kitty McKinsey (kmckinsey@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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