|10/10/2002: Appoint a High-Level Human Rights Envoy for Afghanistan|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal agency advising the Administration and Congress, today issued a statement on Afghanistan, recommending that President George W. Bush or Secretary of State Colin L. Powell immediately appoint a high-level Special Envoy to advance human rights protections in Afghanistan.
"A human rights envoy is critical to ensure that the protection of human rights, including religious freedom, is a key element in the Administration's strategy for regime change and political reconstruction in Afghanistan," said Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer. The text of the statement follows.
A Statement of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
The President or Secretary of State should immediately appoint a high-level Special Envoy to advance human rights protections in Afghanistan. Despite the huge amount of military and foreign-assistance resources the United States is devoting to Afghanistan, the U.S. government is not making a similar investment in diplomatic resources to promote human rights and related freedoms. This is a serious omission in the Administration's strategy for regime change and political reconstruction. The Special Envoy should be appointed now, while it still is possible to influence the development of Afghanistan's new political and legal institutions.
The Commission is alarmed by mounting evidence that Afghanistan is being reconstructed - without significant U.S. opposition - as a state with oppressive crimes and punishments derived from an extreme interpretation of Shariah, as well as a religious law-enforcement apparatus and police. Already a number of developments justify an urgent focus by the United States on human rights issues. Among them:
The Special Envoy should be stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul with the sole responsibility to promote, coordinate, monitor, and report on the implementation by the Afghan Transitional Authority of human rights, including religious freedom. The Special Envoy should ensure that U.S. resources are used effectively to promote a greater respect for human rights, and to the extent possible, that the same is true for the United Nations and other donors. It is important that the Special Envoy have high visibility and the President's confidence.
The Special Envoy also could help ensure that recovery and reconstruction assistance is provided in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1401 (2002) to those parts of the country "where local authorities contribute to the maintenance of a secure environment and demonstrate respect for human rights...." This could help strengthen the Afghan central government and reduce the influence of warlords.
Recent history has demonstrated the central importance of human rights, including religious freedom, and the rule of law to societies across the globe. During the current transitional period in Afghanistan, the basic building blocks of a new government and society are being put in place. It is essential to ensure that the protection of human rights, including religious freedom, be incorporated properly into the legal instruments of that country and implemented in practice throughout Afghan society.
For more information about these issues, please see the Commission'sJune 2002 report on Afghanistan.