UN's Navi Pillay fears Afghanistan rights deteriorating

Afghan female prisoner Nuria with her son at Badam Bagh, Afghanistan's central women's prison, in Kabul, Afghanistan on 28 March 2013
Image caption Activists say laws protecting women are not being implemented

UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has said she fears that human rights are deteriorating in Afghanistan as foreign troops withdraw.

Ms Pillay urged President Hamid Karzai to ensure gains since 2001 were not sacrificed for "political expediency".

She criticised him for appointments to Afghanistan's Human Rights Commission, one of whom is a former Taliban leader opposed to women's rights.

The body could lose its top-ranked status, she said after a two-day visit.

"I left in the hope that he [Mr Karzai] would revisit the matter," Ms Pillay said.

"He did not say that he would.

"If the commission is downgraded, it will be damaged in a number of ways and funding may also be affected."

The BBC's David Loyn in Kabul says the loss of status might threaten aid support for Afghanistan. Human rights watchdogs worldwide are graded by the UN and inspectors are due in the country next month.

Central to the concerns of Ms Pillay and others is one of the new commissioners, Mullah Abdul Rahman Hotak. He was in the Taliban government and is an opponent of an Afghan law aimed at preventing violence against women, our correspondent says.

Ms Pillay, who was making her first visit to Afghanistan, said: "My concern - that the momentum of improvement in human rights may not only have peaked, but is in reality waning - has not been allayed.

"Afghanistan needs to brace itself to ensure that the tumultuous changes that will take place before the end of 2014 do not trigger a serious deterioration in human rights."

Mr Karzai has said he is still committed to progress in human rights.

But he is due to step down after presidential elections next year at the end of a second and final term in office.

The other big change is that all foreign combat forces are due to have pulled out of the country by the end of 2014, which many fear could see the Taliban and their supporters strengthening their hand.

Image caption Navi Pillay said gains made since 2001 were at risk of being lost

Ms Pillay said the human rights situation was deteriorating on several fronts - civilian casualties were increasing, there was a failure to implement laws protecting women, and torture was still being committed in Afghan prisons.

A series of murders and kidnappings of prominent women, several of them senior police officials, in recent months has underlined how fragile the position of women is in the country.

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