Intervention By Goran Fejic Senior Human Rights Advisor of UNAMA on Inauguration of the Satellite Office of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commissionin Kandahar

Dry Siam Samar,
Mr. Governor,
Excellences,
Dear friends from Kandahar,

Allow me, first of all to convey to all of you the best regards and wishes of Mr. Brahmi, Special Representative of the Secretary General. The day before yesterday, Mr. Brahmi had to brief the meeting of the Security Council and that is why he could not be with us today. He asked me to transmit his congratulations to Dr. Siam Samar and all the members and staff of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission on the important achievement we are witnessing today: the opening of the satellite office of the Commission in Kandahar.

Though being among the last offices of the Commission to be opened in the interior of the country, the office in Kandahar is by no means among the least important ones. It will serve a vast area including the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Kabul and Uruapan.

Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan and the largest city of the Pashtun people. It is certainly one of the cities that suffered most from the 23 year long armed conflict. A city that still needs to heel many of its wounds.

The people of Kandahar and of the entire South of Afghanistan still need to recover fully their security and their peace of mind. They rightfully expect, as all Afghans do, to live in peace and build better future for themselves and for their children. They are doing their best to make peace work and they have the right to expect results. In particular, they need to feel that they are called to participation an equal footing, together with all their brothers and sisters from all over Afghanistan, in the reconstruction of their country and in the management of all public affairs.

The establishment of the office of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kandahar is a small, but important sign of change.

We all know that real peace is more than the mere absence of war. Real peace is when the state is able to respond to the demands of its citizens, when police is providing security to people and protecting their property and rights, when the courts are impartial and free from corruption, when schools are accessible to all children and when medical services are easily available.

Needless to emphasize, Afghanistan, in spite of all efforts undertaken by the central government and some positive changes, is still far from such solid and lasting peace. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission are both here to help you in building such a solid peace, which will also bring about security and the rule of law for all.

They will endeavor jointly to bring government institutions closer to ordinary people, and they will teach people how to use lawing order to protect their most important rights such as the right to justice, to education and health.

UNAMA and the Commission need the confidence of both ordinary people and the authorities. They are not here just to criticize and oppose the local authority. On the contrary, they wish cooperate with it.

However, it is the obligation of both UNAMA and the Commission to intervene whenever they find that individuals representing or pretending to represent the authority commit abuses or act against the law.

Unfortunately, we have already had many opportunities to note that law is still often transgressed, even by those who are in charge of making sure that it is respected. People are sometimes kept imprisoned for long periods of time without any legal justification, often without even knowing why they had been arrested, which is a basic right. We are still being informed of severe beatings inflicted to some prisoners or even torture. There are still private jails in some places, and the courts have no information about the persons who are kept imprisoned there.

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission will certainly denounce and condemn such practices and request that their authors be held responsible.

It is important for you to know that the Commissioning doing so, is not acting on behalf of some other authority or faction. The Commission is fully independent. It is responsible only to the men and women of Afghanistan.

UNAMA and the Commission will jointly help local authorities understand better what are their legal obligations in the area oh human rights and how best they can respond to those obligations.

Afghanistan is no longer a country isolated from the world. A number of friendly countries are committed to help Afghanistan recover as soon as possible from the terrible legacy of the war. But, Afghanistan has also signed and ratified important international treaties in the area of human rights and, as other members of the international community, it has the obligation to implement them. These international treaties stress, among other things that individuals have the right express themselves freely, in public, through the press or the radio, without being threatened or intimidated. They also say that people have the right to elect freely their representatives and to be elected. They say that people have the right to disagree with the authorities collectively whenever such disagreement id expressed peacefully and not by violent means.

Afghan men and women will soon be invited to say what they think of the future constitution of their country. Next year, they will be called to vote and decide how and by whom they want their country to be governed. We know that in this part of the country, people have had, since immemorial times, traditional mechanisms to discuss common problems and seek the most appropriate solutions. The existence of local shores and the work of Jirga’s can certainly help in the preparations for the larger and more complex upcoming consultations and elections.

In these preparations too, UNAMA and the Independent Human Rights Commission can assist you. In any case, the most important thing is to make sure that man and women have the possibility do express themselves freely, without any external pressure or intimidation.

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and UNAMA will also work closely together in organizing educational activities in schools, NGOs and associations. They will need the confidence and the trust of teachers, local NGOs, shores, councils of elders in the villages.

I am confident that the Office of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kandahar will be able to gain the same confidence and enjoy the same warm hospitality of the Kandahar people, as we from UNAMA do.

Let me express my best wishes for a successful work of the Office of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kandahar and a fruitful cooperation between the Commission, the Kandahar authorities and the United Nations.

Thank you very much.