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EU-Afghan working group tackles human rights issues

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(Last Updated On: February 24, 2021)

The third meeting of the EU-Afghanistan Special Working Group on Human Rights, Good Governance and Migration was held on Wednesday virtually in which parties involved expressed grave concern about the continuing high level of violence, and condemned the increasing number of targeted killings of media workers, civil society activists and law enforcement officials.

In a statement issued late Wednesday night, the European Union stated the parties discussed human rights and fundamental freedoms in the context of the ongoing Afghan peace process.

The parties “expressed grave concern about the continuing high level of violence, and condemned 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 emphasized the importance 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,” the statement read.

The EU and Afghanistan meanwhile 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.

They also underlined that the preservation and further strengthening of the democratic and human rights gains of the last 20 years is indispensable during and after the peace process, and referred to the broad-based consensus on this, as expressed at the Geneva Conference for Afghanistan in November 2020.

“In the areas of women and children’s rights, the necessity to enforce legislation against widespread violence and harmful practices was highlighted, as well as the need to address discrimination against religious minorities.

“In the field of governance, the EU and Afghanistan emphasised the importance of free, fair, credible, transparent and inclusive electoral processes that would facilitate 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,” read the statement.

Afghanistan’s anti-corruption efforts were also discussed along with the regional dimension of migration.

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.

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Afghan journalists launch center to preserve freedom of speech

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

A number of Afghan media officials and journalists Saturday officially launched the Afghanistan Center for Freedom of Speech, which is aimed at supporting the values of free speech, the media, and journalists.

During an event to mark the official launch in Kabul, media workers called for an immediate end to the targeted assassinations of journalists and urged the government to prosecute those responsible.

Addressing guests attending the event, Sharif Hassanyar, Head of News for Ariana News stated: “As we enter a crucial phase [in the country] I think the existence of this organization and defending the values of freedom of speech is a must.”

The new center has been funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Information and Culture and will represent the rights and values of the media community in the country.

EU Ambassador to Kabul Andreas Von Brandt also addressed guests and called on warring parties to stop targeting journalists and media workers.

“Mursal Wahidi, Shahnaz Raufi, Sadia Sadat, Ilyas Dayee, and Samim Faramarz were all murdered because of their profession,” he said.

“These targeted attacks not only deprived the victims of their future but they can also be qualified as war crimes,” Von Brandt noted.

“The EU is not only protecting free speech, the EU is the foremost, the world’s largest and the most successful experiment in peacemaking,” he said.

“I stand here to testify that understanding between hereditary enemies is actually possible and peaceful transitions can be managed, but all this needs of course is compromise and the readiness for each side to make concessions.”

“The EU stands ready to help [Afghanistan],” he said.

Meanwhile, in support of journalists, the center on Saturday also awarded Afghan female journalist Anisa Shahid with their inaugural journalist of the year award.

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Afghan swimmer makes waves in World Para Series in Texas

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

Afghan swimmer Abbas Karimi won a silver medal at the World Para Swimming Series tournament in Texas on Friday evening in the men’s 50m butterfly S5 category.

Posting the news on his Facebook page, Karimi said: “I won this medal for 80 million refugees in the world.”

The Afghan-born swimmer is competing as part of his bid to get into the Refugee Para Athletes Team for the Tokyo Olympics.

He made history at the 2017 World Championships in Mexico City when he became the first refugee to win a medal at a major Para-swimming event. In 2018 he also won gold at the World Series in Indianapolis.

On Saturday, Karimi said about his latest win: “This medal is cool but I want Paralympic medals [from Tokyo].”

More than 100 swimmers have come together in Louisville, Texas for this year’s major swimming contest.

Karimi has so far secured first place in 50m and 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly heats in his category, and second place in the 200m freestyle heat.

Karimi is also expected to take part in the 50m backstroke event in his category on Sunday.

“Thank you so much, everyone, who’s been supporting and praying for me,” Karimi wrote.

Should Karimi make it to the Tokyo Paralympics, he will be the first Afghan to do so.

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EU envoy urges Taliban to attend Istanbul peace conference

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

EU Ambassador to Kabul Andreas Von Brandt has called on the Taliban to engage in serious negotiations with the Afghan government.

Addressing the inauguration of the “Afghanistan Free Speech Hub” by a group of Afghan journalists and media officials in Kabul, Von Brandt said that the Taliban should not miss opportunities for maintaining peace in Afghanistan.

“As we entered in the holy month of Ramadan I still hope that the Taliban will not miss this opportunity offered to them in Istanbul,” he said.

“There is actually no time to waste,” Von Brandt stressed.

“If the Taliban want to be part of a government in Afghanistan, benefit from our development assistance from our trade, from our humanitarian aid, from the international exposure they better start seriously negotiating,” the EU diplomat said.

This comes after US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday announced that a full withdrawal of troops would start from May 1 and end by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States.

EU Ambassador stated that the organization would continue its mission in Afghanistan beyond foreign troop withdrawal.

“Let one thing be clear the EU delegation will continue to be here and continue to do its work,” Von Brandt said.

He, meanwhile, called on the warring parties to compromise for the sake of the Afghan people.

“Understanding between hereditary enemies is actually possible and peaceful transitions can be managed,” Von Brandt said.

“It is an example…how the blood on the battlefield can be exchanged for patience at the negotiating table, how horrific conflicts and wars can be ended through joint institutions.”

“But all these needs of course compromise and the readiness for each side to make concessions,” he added.

He emphasized that if war continues or intensifies “everybody will lose terribly”.

“Of course we are strong supporters to an inclusive peace process that reflects the concerns of the people of Afghanistan that includes women, war victims, civil society, and of course all groups of the population,” he said.

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