The third meeting of the EU-Afghanistan Special Working Group on Human Rights, Good Governance and Migration was held on Wednesday in a virtual format during which both parties agreed to work together for the protection of human rights and good governance in the country.
“The EU and Afghanistan reaffirmed their commitment undertaken with the signature of their bilateral Cooperation Agreement for Partnership and Development (CAPD) to respect democratic principles and human rights, as well as the principle of the rule of law as essential elements of the CAPD and underpinning the internal and international policies of both parties,” the two parties said in a press release on Wednesday.
According to the statement, the two parties also discussed human rights and fundamental freedoms in the context of the ongoing Afghan peace process and expressed grave concern about the continuing high level of violence, condemning the increasing number of targeted killings of media workers, civil society activists and law enforcement officials, who are essential bastions of a democratic and open society.
The EU called on the Afghan government to provide for the security of these important actors in society, as well as conduct thorough investigations, bring the culprits to justice and keep the Afghan public fully informed about the measures taken.
The EU also recalled the imperative of respecting and promoting International Humanitarian Law to protect civilians in conflict by all parties to the conflict.
The protection of civilians, medical and education facilities as well as humanitarian workers, cannot wait for peace. The parties stressed that only an immediate cessation of violence would restore confidence in the sincerity of the Taliban for a political settlement to end the war.
On the inclusivity of the talks, the statement said: “The EU and Afghanistan agreed on the importance of an enhanced promotion of inclusivity in the peace talks, notably the involvement of women, youth, minorities, internally displaced persons, refugees and victims of war, to ensure an ownership of the process by all Afghans.”
In the field of governance, the EU and Afghanistan emphasized the importance of free, fair, credible, transparent and inclusive electoral processes that would facilitate the legitimate transfer of power and discussed the experiences of their electoral cooperation and the prospects of continuing electoral reform. Anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) issues were also addressed, in view of the EU’s ongoing assessment of Afghanistan’s AML/CFT regime.
“The parties discussed the measures taken by the Afghan Government and commended their joint coordination in the area of anti-corruption policy and institutional reforms and committed to keep the matter high on their bilateral agenda,” the statement said.
The statement comes amid concerns that the peace process which is currently underway between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban in Doha could undermine the women’s gains and democracy in Afghanistan.
Also, on February 29 last year, former US President Donald Trump struck a peace agreement with the Taliban under which Washington agreed foreign troops would leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in return for conditions including cutting ties with Al-Qaeda and opening peace talks with Afghan sides.
The deal was met with mixed reactions among Afghans.
The Afghan government however has constantly said that it will not compromise on the gains the country has made in the area of democracy, women’s rights and human rights in the past two decades.
Higher violence and civilian casualties:
The EU renews supports to Afghanistan’s peace and gains as the level of violence has been very high since the US-Taliban peace agreement.
There was a rise in civilians killed and injured in Afghanistan following the start of peace negotiations in September, according to a report released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office on Tuesday.
The overall number of civilian casualties in 2020 was 8,820 (3,035 killed and 5,785 inured), which fell below 10,000 for the first time since 2013 and was 15 percent down from 2019.
The Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Annual Report 2020 documented civilian casualties in the last quarter of the year.
“2020 could have been the year of peace in Afghanistan. Instead, thousands of Afghan civilians perished due to the conflict,” said Deborah Lyons, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan in the report.
“This important report has the overriding objective of providing the parties responsible with the facts, and recommendations, so they take immediate and concrete steps to protect civilians. I urge them not to squander a single day in taking the urgent steps to avoid more suffering,” Deborah Lyons said.
In October, civilian casualties were the highest of any month in 2020, and in November UNAMA documented the highest number of civilian casualties of any November since it started systematic documentation in 2009.