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Rights defenders face threats in Afghanistan: watchdog

Amnesty International report says human rights defenders are largely ignored amid escalating violence in war-torn country

Shadi Khan Saif   | 28.08.2019
Rights defenders face threats in Afghanistan: watchdog

KABUL, Afghanistan

Amid escalating violence in the war-weary country, Afghanistan’s human rights community is facing intimidation, harassment and threats from authorities and armed groups, the Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

In a fresh titled “Defenseless Defenders: Attacks on Afghanistan’s Human Rights Community”, the rights watchdog said human rights defenders and activists have been largely ignored by the Afghan government and the international community in the face of the escalation of violence in the country.

Last year saw the highest levels of civilian deaths recorded in Afghanistan, according to a UN report in February. A total of 10,993 civilian casualties, including 3,804 deaths and 7,189 injured, were reporter across the country in 2018.

“Afghanistan’s human rights defenders and activists have shown great courage despite the very difficult context in which they operate. Faced with grave threats to their lives and well-being, they continue to speak up against injustice and stand up for the rights of others”, said Omar Waraich, a deputy director of South Asia at the Amnesty International.

The report also detailed how human rights defenders and activists have been intimidated, harassed, threatened, shot at, and killed in attacks that the Afghan authorities failed to investigate and prosecute.

Robin Waudo, the communication coordinator of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Afghanistan, told Anadolu Agency that the ignorance has affected thousands of people on a daily basis.

“We had taxi ambulance services in the most remote and restive parts of the country besides running and supporting a number of health centers and other humanitarian operations that are affected severely by the persisting threats”, he said.

Since December 2016, the ICRC has been directly targeted three times in northern Afghanistan. In 2017, a female Spanish physiotherapist associated with the ICRC was killed in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Last year, the Taliban said they will no longer allow safe passage to Red Cross staff working in Afghanistan. Since then, the aid group has limited its nationwide operations.

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