The United States Department of State on Friday issued its annual country reports on human rights in the world and warned of the increase in attacks on civilians in Afghanistan.
According to the report, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 - Afghanistan, anti-government armed groups used children and teenagers as soldiers, suicide attackers and weapons carriers and in some government forces also recruited teenagers.
“Child Soldiers: There were reports the ANDSF (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces), particularly the ANP (Afghan National Police) and ALP (Afghan Local Police), and pro-government militias recruited children. The AIHRC (Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission) reported that government security forces in Kandahar province used child recruits. UNAMA documented the recruitment and use of 14 boys by security forces from January to June. The government continued to work towards the expansion of Child Protection Units to all 34 provinces. As of August there were 21 active units, the report read.
The report stated however that under a government action plan, the ANP took steps that included training staff on age-assessment procedures, launching an awareness campaign on underage recruitment, investigating alleged cases of underage recruitment, and establishing centers in some provincial recruitment centers to document cases of attempted child enlistment.
“Recruits underwent an identity check, including an affidavit from at least two community elders that the recruit was at least 18 years old and eligible to join the ANDSF. The Ministries of Interior and Defense also issued directives meant to prevent the recruitment and sexual abuse of children by the ANDSF. Media reported in some cases ANDSF units used children as personal servants, support staff, or for sexual purposes.”
The report stated that government forces have also been charged with extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention and sexual abuse of children and adolescents.
It stated the most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings by security forces; disappearances, torture; arbitrary arrest; detention, including of women accused of so-called moral crimes; and sexual abuse of children by security force members.
Additional problems included violence against journalists, criminalization of defamation; pervasive government corruption; and lack of accountability and investigation in cases of violence against women.
Discrimination against persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities and discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation persisted with little accountability, the report read.
Widespread disregard for the rule of law and official impunity for those who committed human rights abuses were serious problems and the government did not consistently or effectively prosecute abuses by officials, including security forces, the report added.
“There were major attacks on civilians by armed insurgent groups and targeted assassinations by armed insurgent groups of persons affiliated with the government.
“The Taliban and other insurgents continued to kill security force personnel and civilians using indiscriminate tactics such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide attacks, and rocket attacks, and to commit disappearances and torture.
“The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) attributed 67 percent of civilian casualties (1,141 deaths and 3,574 injured) to nonstate actors. The Taliban used children as suicide bombers, soldiers, and weapons carriers. Other antigovernment elements threatened, robbed, kidnapped, and attacked government workers, foreigners, medical and nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers, and other civilians,” the report read.
In reaction to the report on overcrowded and unsanitary prisons, the ministry of interior’s spokesman, Najib Danish said: “We are committed to implementing all laws on human rights in Afghanistan prisons. We urge the national and international institutions to come and see our prisons to make sure that human rights have been respected here,".
Afghan Integrity Watch meanwhile said the National Unity Government (NUG) so far has not made any big achievement in fighting corruption and bringing reforms.
"After three and a half years of the NUG, still government has not met the expectations that the civil societies had in terms of bringing reforms and eradicating corruption," Integrity Watch Afghanistan researcher Nasir Timori said.
Another major area of concern, meanwhile was that of child labor.
“Child labor remained a pervasive problem. The Ministry of Labor declined to estimate the number of working children, citing a lack of data and deficiencies in birth registrations.
“Child laborers worked as domestic servants, street vendors, peddlers, and shopkeepers. There was child labor in the carpet industry, brick kilns, coalmines, and poppy fields. Children were also heavily engaged in the worst forms of child labor in mining (especially family-owned gem mines), commercial sexual exploitation, transnational drug smuggling, and organized begging rings.
“Some forms of child labor exposed children to land mines. Children faced numerous health and safety risks at work, and there were reports of sexual abuse of children by adult workers. There were reports of recruitment of juveniles by the ANDSF during the year. Taliban forces pressed children to take part in hostile acts,” read the report.
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