Group Urges Priority for Women’s and Human Rights in Afghan Constitution

A leading human rights organization is urging that Afghanistan’s new constitution include support for women’s and human rights. Human Rights Watch (HRW) sent a private letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, insisting that he include strong human rights protections into Afghanistan’s draft constitution and to publicly reiterate his support for the importance of human rights in Afghanistan. HRW asks Karzai to “publicly state that the new Afghan constitution should protect the human rights of all persons in Afghanistan, with special emphasis on women and religious and ethnic minorities…announce publicly that the constitution should guarantee equality for all Afghans, irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity, or religious.”

The letter asks Karzai to include language giving the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission a “meaningful mandate,” reports Radio Free Europe. It urges Karzai to both publicly and privately support the commission by giving it full constitutional status and to reprimand anyone who interferes with the commission’s mandate to investigate and publicize violations of human rights in Afghanistan.

The letter also addresses the need for improved security in the country. Gains for girls’ education are now at risk. Many parents are afraid to send their girls to school after more than 30 girls’ schools have been attacked in the past year. According to Human Rights Watch, “the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan is the largest impediment to the protection of human rights, reconstruction, and political stability. Without an improved security situation it will be difficult and perhaps impossible to hold a credible constitutional drafting process or national elections.” Along with the Feminist Majority, HRW calls for a full-fledged expansion of the NATO led peacekeeping force (ISAF) outside of Kabul and for more support from the United States for logistical, intelligence, and political support necessary for ISAF to expand.

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Radio Free Europe 10/27/03; Human Rights Watch Letter 9/22/03

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