Status: Abandoned process or policy
In Afghanistan, a decree for the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs or defenders) was introduced in 2020. Due to the Taliban’s seize of power in August 2021, the decree is now rendered ineffective. Since the seize, the situation for human rights defenders has been deteriorating rapidly.
In late 2020, the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan enacted a Decree to protect HRDs, creating a “Joint Commission for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders” under the chairmanship of Professor Sarwar Danish, the Second Vice President. The decree lays a foundation for the protection of HRDs, but it does not explain how its provisions should be implemented by government officials. More importantly, after the U.S. forces left Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban suspended the country’s pre-existing constitutional order. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) was dissolved and its staff in the country remain threatened. Civil society organisations are calling for the urgent protection of human rights defenders in Afghanistan (FIDH, Amnesty International).
Afghanistan is monitored by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. However, since the Taliban is not a formally recognized government, it is difficult for any formal discussions or negotiations to take place. The UN Special Rapporteur did release a statement calling for a coordinated response from the international community. The statement underlines the climate of fear imposed on human rights defenders by the Taliban and highlights illustrative testimonies of oppression in the country.
Afghanistan is obliged to draft a national report through the Universal Periodic Review, of which the last one was submitted in 2018. In their report, the government of Afghanistan underlined their willingness to improve the protection of defenders and welcomed requests by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. In a note verbale from 2017, the Afghan government declares themselves committed to “establish[ing] an adequate information-sharing system on threats to media outlets, civil society organizations, journalists and human rights defenders at the provincial level” and they requested a formal visit from the UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs. Afghanistan honored this commitment through the above mentioned Decree and a Joint Commission for the protection of human rights defenders, but these efforts were completely abandoned in 2021.
Afghanistan is classified as “repressed” by the 2022 CIVICUS monitor, which means that civic space is “significantly constrained”. Freedom House Index has no data on Afghanistan. Concerns include oppression and violence by current authorities, as well as the increasing restrictions on women’s and girls’ rights in the country.
Updated on 20/01/2023