UN urges speedy justice in cases of violence against Afghan women 

Afghan women face strong social stigma in the conservative country and may be killed in so-called honor killings. According to a Human Rights Watch report jail is the final place for Afghan women who flee abuse and rape. (Photo: Reuters)

April 20, April 2015: The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in a joint report pinpointed the factors hindering women’s approach to justice on Sunday.

The report has stated that access to justice for women, victims of violence in Afghanistan, needs to be improved. The report adds that a legal framework is there in place for handling such cases, however there remain many factors that hinder access to justice and redress for victims, particularly the lack of available civil remedies.

The report further substantiates 110 cases of Afghan women who sought justice through judicial and non-judicial mechanism between August 2014 and February 2015.

Apart from 5% of the resolved cases by criminal prosecution and sanctions against the perpetrators, the rest are handled through mediations, the report adds.

“The women who had been interviewed said they sought better protection through mediation demanding the same mechanism yet to be more empowered and executable,” said Ivan Šimonović, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.

Women’s tendencies for preferring the mediation process are the result of weaknesses in criminal justice system, including allegations of corruption, abuse of power and lack of professionalism, as well as cultural and family pressure.

The report also found that majority of women are deeply concerned with obtaining remedies of  civil nature, such as divorce, living in a safe environment rather than seeking criminal sanctions.

The report notes that the existing legal framework and court adjudication process in Afghanistan provides limited options to women facing violence, with its focus on the imposition of criminal penalties on perpetrators and the absence of legal provisions available for obtaining restraint orders and civil remedies.

It also highlights women’s economic dependency and the weak legal protection of their property and other rights as key factors impeding survivors of violence from taking action against abusers.

It also expresses the grave concerns of the women demanding institutional reforms needed to protect their rights and improve their reach to justice in Afghanistan, while, recommending that the Government of Afghanistan should adopt legal, institutional and policy reforms to better protect Afghan women facing violence. These include expansion of civil remedies, strengthening the capacity of the criminal justice system, regulating mediation through common standards and implementation of 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women (the EVAW law).

“As demands for justice through mediation in Afghanistan increases, the Government should ensure mediation practices fully protect the rights of victims,” said Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

He stressed that major crimes of violence against women must be prosecuted and adjudicated through the criminal justice process and not mediated, in accordance with Afghan laws and the country’s international human rights obligations.

The Oslo Times

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