CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Afghanistan

Live rating: Repressed

Last updated on 09.05.2019 at 09:55

on watch list

Afghanistan-Overview

A strong legal framework for civic space in Afghanistan is undermined in practice by persistent insecurity and attacks on civil society by state and non-state actors, including extremist groups and terrorist organisations. Peaceful protests are generally allowed by the authorities, although continuing conflict and intolerance mean that citizens are less able to gather in public in some remote parts of the country.

read more

from the news feed

view the news feed
Deplorable Taliban attack on aid NGO reflects CSOs fears of losing civil rights in the peace process

Deplorable Taliban attack on aid NGO reflects CSOs fears of losing civil rights in the peace process

Association

On 8th May 2019, Taliban attacked the offices of an aid international NGO in Kabul, Counterpart Internationalkilling nine, including three civilians, and wounding at least 20 others, according to initial reports. The NGO said that it was attacked by suicide bombers in a series of explosions that were followed by a "sustained gunfight as gunmen were able to gain entrance to the building". The attack ended after around six hours when the Afghan special forces cleared the offices. Nearly 200 staff were present at the office at the time of the attack.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack with the group spokesperson claiming in a twitter messages that the Counterpart International was targeted because it promoted "western culture" and run a programme "promoting open inter-mixing between men and women".

Counterpart International has been operating in Afghanistan since 2005 and works to bolster civil society organisations within Afghanistan, it is backed by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and others. On it website condemning the attack on its Kabul compound the 

The attack was condemned as a crime against civilians by the government, the United Nations and the US Embassy in Afghanistan.

The President and CEO of Counterpart International, Ann Hudock, said

"Today’s attack was an attack on innocent civilians, development professionals who dedicate their lives to improving the lives of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable, including women, youth, and the disabled.”

The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, condemned the Taliban attack stating it was a  "deliberate targeting of civilian aid organisation" and for targeting a civilian area of Kabul, further stating

"Today’s attack particularly deplorable, hitting civilians helping Afghans & taking place during Ramadan".

The Taliban attack comes at a time of accelerated peace efforts with the Taliban by USA and following a major Peace gathering in Kabul last week organised by the Government to agree on the peace framework with the armed group. The Taliban attack on civil society organisation and its justification citing also gender concerns, resonates the fears of civil society and women groups that their right are possibly going to be undermined as the Taliban do not seem serious in respecting human rights and women's rights. 

Association

Freedom of association is enshrined in law and it generally creates an enabling framework for the formation and operation of civil society organisations. However, there are some barriers to their free operation, as well as invasive supervisory oversight.

Freedom of association is enshrined in law and it generally creates an enabling framework for the formation and operation of civil society organisations. However, there are some barriers to their free operation, as well as invasive supervisory oversight. Organisations are required to submit semi-annual and annual reports to the government, and failure to do so can lead to the dissolution of the organisation. In 2014, approximately 150 NGOs were deregistered because they did not submit reports. Human rights defenders work in a dangerous environment and experience a diverse range of attacks, including bombings and assassinations, carried out by both state and non-state actors, with high levels of impunity. Conditions for women’s rights groups, particularly in areas of the country controlled by the Taliban and other armed opposition groups, are particularly difficult.

Peaceful Assembly

The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed in law, however, it only applies to Afghan citizens. The Law on Gatherings, Strikes and Demonstrations requires notification only 24 hours in advance of the event, and express permission from the authorities is not required.

The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed in law, however, it only applies to Afghan citizens. The Law on Gatherings, Strikes and Demonstrations requires notification only 24 hours in advance of the event, and express permission from the authorities is not required. Although citizens are increasingly exercising their right to peaceful protests, in some cases, and particularly in the rural areas of the country, police use excessive force and arrests or the protest is hijacked by armed groups. In 2015, a suicide bombing killed at least 20 people during an anti-corruption protest in Afghanistan's eastern province of Khost.

Expression

Free speech is still significantly constrained in Afghanistan. Journalists – particularly female journalists – face intimidation, legal harassment and violence from state and non-state actors. Consequently, many journalists self-censor, especially when it comes to reporting sensitive issues like corruption, violence against women and human rights abuses.

Free speech is still significantly constrained in Afghanistan. Journalists – particularly female journalists – face intimidation, legal harassment and violence from state and non-state actors. Consequently, many journalists self-censor, especially when it comes to reporting sensitive issues like corruption, violence against women and human rights abuses. In 2015, the organisation Nai Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan registered 95 cases of violence against journalists, four of whom were killed. Most of the crimes against journalists are not properly investigated, further adding to the high levels of impunity.