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UN calls on Afghanistan to prevent further killings of human rights defenders

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2020)

Afghanistan must take early decisive action to prevent killings of human rights defenders, UN human rights experts said today, calling attention to a recent spate of such deaths.

“The killing of one human rights defender is a tragedy for society; the death of nine defenders since the beginning of this year shows the emergence of a truly alarming trend,” said Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. “Already by August, Afghanistan has far exceeded last year’s figures.”

“Impunity allows the perpetuation of such crimes and implies a lack of recognition for human rights defenders’ role in society,” the experts said, noting that investigations in many cases have not yet yielded any results. “There needs to be full accountability for such egregious violations of human rights.”

Asmatullah Salaam, who worked on promoting the right to education in the province of Ghazni, was abducted and killed as he made his way to celebrate Eid with his family on 1 August. His death comes not long after Fatimah Natasha Khalil and Ahmad Jawed Folad were killed on their way to work at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission on 27 June. Human rights defender Ibrahim Ebrat was shot dead in Zabul in May.

“In January the Government of Afghanistan voiced support for the idea of creating a national protection mechanism for human rights defenders, but no progress has been reported and clearly defenders are still no better protected than they were before,” said the experts. “We urge the government to urgently put in place, as promised, an effective national protection mechanism.”

It is the responsibility of every government to protect human rights defenders against armed groups, they added.

“Afghanistan must do better at detecting and acting on early warning signs, such as threats and intimidation, protecting others who find themselves at risk, and thoroughly investigating violence, including killings, when they happen,” they said.  “We cannot allow these disturbing events to continue.”

The experts said they are talking with Afghanistan authorities, and pledged to closely monitor the situation.

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India’s COVID-19 caseload now over six million mark

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(Last Updated On: September 28, 2020)

India’s confirmed coronavirus tally has bypassed the six million mark with another 82,170 cases reported in the past 24 hours. 

The health ministry reported that the COVID-19 caseload was now at 6,074,703.

At least 1,039 deaths were also recorded in the same period, taking total fatalities up to 95,542.

New infections in India, the world’s second-most populous country, are currently being reported faster than anywhere else in the world and are expected to surpass the US tally, which is at 7.1 million, within the next few weeks. 

According to Johns Hopkins University data, almost one in every three new infections reported in the world and one in every five reported coronavirus deaths came from India.

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Abdullah hopes Pakistan visit will ‘open new chapter’ in relations

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(Last Updated On: September 28, 2020)

Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said early Monday morning his visit to Islamabad will prove a unique opportunity for Afghanistan and Pakistan to exchange views on the intra-Afghan negotiations. 

In a post on Twitter, Abdullah said “I hope this visit will open a new chapter of mutual cooperation at all levels, especially on achieving a lasting and dignified peace in Afghanistan.”

He also confirmed he will leave for Islamabad Monday, for an official three-day visit and will be accompanied by a high-level Afghan delegation. 

Abdullah said he will meet with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Arif Alvi, the Chairman of the Senate, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Foreign Minister and other dignitaries.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Sunday, Abdullah will also deliver a key-note address at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad.

This will be Abdullah’s first visit to Pakistan as head of the HCNR and the first since 2008. 

“The visit will provide an opportunity for wide-ranging exchange of views on the Afghan peace process and strengthening of Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations and people-to-people interaction,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry stated. 

“Pakistan attaches high importance to its fraternal ties with Afghanistan, rooted deep in shared history, faith, culture, values and traditions. 

“Pakistan fully supports all efforts for peace, stability and prosperity of the Afghan people. The visit of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah will contribute to further strengthening amity, brotherhood and close cooperation between the two countries,” read the statement.

 

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Afghan peace negotiator says they hope to finalize agenda soon

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(Last Updated On: September 27, 2020)

Afghan Peace Negotiator, Mawlawi Attaullah Lodin said Sunday that the Afghan team and the Taliban peace talks team have not yet reached a consensus on the agenda and framework for negotiations going forward. 

Lodin, whose video message was posted to the official Afghan negotiating team’s Twitter page said the team is fully aware of Afghanistan’s calls for an immediate ceasefire but that the talks are complicated and will need time for agreements to be reached. 

He said: “We hope to finalize the agenda and that both sides agree to it. Thereafter a ceasefire should be called.”

Lodin also raised the issue of the US-Doha agreement signed in February, which has become a point of contention between the two teams. 

The agreement led to the Afghan negotiating team meeting the Taliban team around the talks tables, which started two weeks ago. 

However, the Afghan government was not a party to the deal between the US and the Taliban, which does not recognize the Afghan government as legitimate. 

“We were not present in the deal, we have not signed the deal,” said Lodin. 

This comes after a member of the Taliban’s negotiating team, Khairullah Khairkhwa, said on Saturday that the main point of contention in the ongoing intra-Afghan talks in Doha was that the Afghanistan Republic was refusing to deal with the current talks within the framework of the US-Taliban agreement.

He also stated that the second point of contention is that Shiite members say that decisions should not be based solely on Hanafi jurisprudence. The Afghan negotiating team want Hanafi, Shiite and human rights included.

Lodin said, however, that according to the Afghan constitution, the Shiites Jaʿfari jurisprudence, or Ja’fari Fiqh, can not be ignored. 

“We don’t want to experience what is going on in Yemen and Syria as there is conflict between majorities and minorities in those countries,” he said. 

Another Afghan talks team member Nader Nadery meanwhile said late Sunday night that the two teams had met earlier and discussions had lasted several hours. The discussions focused on the contentious issues and would continue, he said.

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