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UN rights chief warns Afghanistan situation worsening

[JURIST] Afghanistan's human rights progress has been thwarted [UN News Centre report] by armed conflict, censorship, abuse of power, and violence against women, according to a report [text, PDF] delivered Thursday to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile]. The report says that addressing these problems requires addressing poverty, and that the Afghan government has a responsibility to help national institutions protect human rights. Pillay's report recommends that Afghanistan's government create a human rights unit in the Ministry of Justice [official website] to combat poverty faced by groups burdened by discrimination. The government must also ensure an impartial judiciary and law-enforcement body, and promote open and peaceful elections, the report says. Under Afghanistan's constitution [text], men and women have equal rights, but, according to the report, women are being prosecuted for acts Afghan law does not define as crimes: "The Government is failing to adequately protect the rights of women in Afghanistan despite constitutional guarantees and its international obligations." Another report [text, PDF] Pillay presented to the council Thursday suggests that 2008's food crisis, prompted by high food costs in the US, combined with the current economic crisis to negatively impact human-rights situations globally.

Afghanistan continues to receive criticism for its human rights record. Last week, the US State Department (DOS) [official website] released its annual 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [DOS materials], criticizing Afghanistan [JURIST report] for its continued use of child labor. In November, Pillay urged [press release] Afghan President Hamad Karzai to put a stop to executions [JURIST report] and join nations calling for a death penalty moratorium after five prisoners were executed over the course of four days. Last March, Chief Human Rights Officer Norah Niland of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan [official website] called on the Afghan government to do more to protect human rights [JURIST report] and see that human rights violators are brought to justice.

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