Afghan Election Candidates in Fear of Attacks, Says Amnesty International

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200 x302,
Laura Spann: lspann@aiusa.org

 

Afghan Election Candidates in Fear of Attacks, Says Amnesty International

WASHINGTON - Afghan election candidates,
campaigners and voters have told Amnesty International that they are facing
increasing attacks and threats from the Taliban and other insurgent groups
in the run-up to Afghanistan’s September 18 parliamentary elections.

Women candidates are at particular risk and some have told Amnesty International
that local security forces refuse to offer them protection and even ridicule
them when they do report threats or violence against them.

“Two weeks ago the Taliban put a ‘night letter’ behind my door and in
the morning I took it to the local police station but no one wanted to
take the threat seriously. One of the police officers told me that if I
wanted to run for office then I deserved to be harassed,” a female parliamentary
candidate told Amnesty International. She asked to remain anonymous, in
fear of becoming a target by both police forces and insurgents in her district.

“The people of Afghanistan should not have
to choose between their safety and participation in public life,” said
Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director.

Since July, three election candidates and at least 15 campaign workers
have been killed, and several injured in failed attempts to assassinate
them. At least two candidates were abducted and later released.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the killing of the three candidates
and many of the other attacks on candidates and their campaigners.

Amnesty International has urged the Afghan government to ensure equal access
to police protection for all candidates based on an objective security
assessment, not on gender or political affiliation.

“The Afghan government must take seriously
any attacks and threats against candidates, and order prompt and impartial
investigations into these abuses when they occur," said Malhotra.
"The Taliban must also immediately stop attacks on civilians, including
those involved in the election.”
 
Election candidates have told Amnesty International that despite repeated
requests for protection from Taliban attacks, Afghan police forces have
failed to respond to, or even to investigate, reported violence against
candidates.

Another female parliamentary candidate, who also wished to remain anonymous,
told Amnesty International that she was recently shot and injured by gunmen
while campaigning.

“The police arrested two people who were found to be linked to a local
power holder in a northern province. These people now have been released
and I feel extremely frightened,” she said.  “I have since asked
for police protection but haven’t received any.”

The Independent Election Commission (IEC), a government body which oversees
the polls, reported on September 5 that at least 938 of the more than 6,800
polling centers throughout Afghanistan will not open due to security concerns.

The centers remaining closed are primarily
in the south and east of Afghanistan where insurgent groups wield control
over vast swathes of these areas.

On September 13 the Afghan President’s office stated that security forces
are completely prepared to ensure safe voting throughout the country.

However, according to the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan
(FEFA), an Afghan NGO, candidates in 14 out of 34 provinces have expressed
concerns over inadequate security provision at their campaigning venues
and other candidates told Amnesty International that they did not think
security provisions were going to be any better on election day.

FEFA observers in the eastern province of Nangarhar recently reported large
disparities between the protection provided between candidates favored
by local government officials and others.

“The Afghan security forces must ensure that voters and candidates are
given adequate security and protection based on an objective assessment
of need," said Malhotra. "Everyone, including women, should be
able to participate without fear of attacks and threats."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.

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