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UN experts urge Afghanistan’s new rulers to prohibit torture ‘in any circumstances’

The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) drew particular attention to the provisions of the Convention and of its Optional Protocol (OPCAT).

Noting that Afghanistan has entered into “a very challenging new chapter of power transition”, the SPT reminded in a statement that torture is “absolutely prohibited at all times and under all circumstances”.

Torture or other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment cannot be justified in any situation, be it state of war, internal political instability or public emergency, they underscored.

Moreover, the Afghan authorities must protect everyone against torture and ill-treatment, “regardless of their ethnic background, religious belief, or political affiliation”, the SPT added.

Denied freedom 

The UN Subcomittee expressed particular concern over the situation of people deprived of liberty along with the conditions of where they are held, including prisons, police stations and other detention facilities as well as psychiatric and social welfare institutions.

They shone a spotlight on significance of the work of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and its National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), a national and independent body set up to visit places of deprivation of liberty with the objective of torture prevention, and its important role in the area of protection and promotion of human rights.

“We call upon the Afghan authorities to ensure the safety and security of all members and staff of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and its NPM”, the statement continued.

“They are entitled to protection from any reprisals and to be able to continue their preventive work, with the support of the authorities in implementing the objectives of the Convention against Torture and its Protocol”, which Afghanistan ratified in 1987 and 2018 respectively.

In conclusion, the SPT upheld its availability to cooperate with the authorities in implementing the Optional Protocol’s provisions and assisting the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and its NPM in strengthening the institution and its preventive activities, including by visiting holding places and providing recommendations to relevant authorities on preventing torture and ill-treatment.

Humanitarian flights returning

Meanwhile, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists at a regular media briefing that the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) operated by the World Food Programme (WFP) is resuming its flights to enable 160 humanitarian organizations to continue their life-saving activities throughout the country’s provinces.

Currently, the air passenger service links Islamabad to Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar, with three flights already having taken place to Mazar-i-Sharif since 29 August.

WFP says that all efforts are being made to step up operations as soon as possible and increase the number of flown-to destinations in Afghanistan.

In addition, a cargo airbridge is being established to transport non-food items, such as medical and other emergency supplies to where they are needed the most.

“UNHAS’ domestic passenger service requires $18 million and $12 million is required for the cargo airbridge. Both services will be utilized by the entire humanitarian community”, said Mr. Dujarric.  

In the first six months of 2021, WFP provided assistance to 5.5 million people in Afghanistan.

In the first six months of 2021, WFP provided assistance to 5.5 million people in Afghanistan.

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