No Time to Lose: Promoting the Accountability of the Afghan National Security Forces

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By the end of 2014, the Afghan national army and police – under the authority of the Ministries of Defence and Interior, respectively – are expected to assume full responsibility for the protection of Afghan civilians. But, as international military actors prepare for withdrawal, there are serious concerns regarding the professionalism and accountability of the security forces they will leave behind. The report urges states supporting the national security forces to: Improve the quality of training for the national forces – ensuring that all components of the security forces are appropriately trained in human rights and international humanitarian law, and that training for the police includes sufficient emphasis on accountability, good governance, the rule of law, and community-based policing
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  Joint Briefing Paper 10 May 2011 No Time to Lose Promoting the Accountability of the Afghan National Security Forces  Members of the Afghan security forces in Baghlan, part of Pamir 303, the interior ministry forces commanded by General Daoud Daoud.  As greater responsibility is handed over to the Afghan National Security Forces, there is a serious risk that unless adequate accountability mechanisms are put in place, violations of human rights and humanitarian law will escalate – and Afghan civilians will pay the price. Troop-contributing states have been slow to honour their moral and legal obligation to ensure the accountability of the national security forces; and time to do so is running out.  2 Summary By 2014, the Afghan national army and police – under the authority of the Ministries of Defence and Interior, respectively – are expected to assume full responsibility for the protection of Afghan civilians. But as international military actors prepare for withdrawal, there are seri-ous concerns regarding the professionalism and accountability of the security forces they will leave behind. The civilian toll of the conflict in Afghanistan is getting worse each year. In 2010 at least 2,777 civilians were killed – the highest since 2001. Armed opposition groups continue to account for the highest number of civilian casualties and the most serious violations of hu-man rights and humanitarian law; but the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) – financed, trained and equipped by the international community – also account for substantial civilian harm. At least 10 per cent of Afghan civilians killed in the conflict in 2010 were killed by their own security forces. But civilian casualty statistics do not convey the full extent of harm caused to the civilian population by the ANSF. Human rights organi-sations have documented a series of alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law on the part of the national security forces, including night raids carried out without adequate precautions to protect civilians, the recruitment and sexual abuse of children, mis-treatment during detention, and the killing and abuse of civilians by local police seen by many communities as criminal gangs. The international community has been pouring money into the war in Afghanistan for almost a decade, but serious efforts to strengthen the professionalism and accountability of the national security forces only really began in 2009. For the best part of a decade there has been a striking lack of attention to the development of qualified security per-sonnel, and equally, a lack of attention to the institutional reform nec-essary to ensure accountability. There is no satisfactory mechanism by which an individual can lodge a complaint against the ANSF; nor for the processing of complaints; nor for the dissemination of findings or the payment of compensation. The military justice system func-tions only for those without political connections, there is no perma-nent institution devoted to investigating allegations of harm caused by the ANSF, and civilian casualties caused by the ANSF are not even counted by the government. As greater responsibility is handed over to the national security forces, there is a serious risk that unless ade-quate accountability mechanisms are put in place, violations of hu-man rights and humanitarian law may escalate – and Afghan civilians will pay the price.  3 Combating abusive conduct on the part of the ANSF and the climate of impunity in which abuse takes place, as well as improving the gov-ernment’s response to civilian harm caused during lawful combat op-erations, is a moral, political and legal imperative both for the interna-tional community and the Afghan government. Afghan communities have high hopes for their own security forces; but a perceived lack of accountability for violations, as well as ‘collateral damage’ followed by neither apology nor redress, undermines the perceived legitimacy of the Afghan government and makes those high hopes appear mis-placed. All states also have a legal obligation to ensure respect for in-ternational humanitarian law, and this includes a duty to take action to stop violations. Some states have additional obligations under do-mestic law and policy regarding security forces they fund, train, arm, equip, or operate alongside. As international forces prepare for a phased withdrawal of troops in the lead up to transition, time to develop the professionalism and ac-countability of the national security forces is running out. It’s not too late; but an adequate response will not be possible without genuine political will at the highest levels of civilian and military leadership, both Afghan and international. Recommendations to the Afghan Government and the Inter-national Community: 1.   Ensure that individuals put forward for inclusion in the ANSF are credibly and consistently vetted for gross violations of human rights. 2.   Improve the quality of training for the ANSF. Training for the ANP must include sufficient emphasis on community-based polic-ing, good governance, the rule of law and accountability; and all components of the ANSF should be trained in international hu-man rights and humanitarian law as appropriate. 3.   Increase the number of women in the ANSF, as well as in the de-sign and implementation of training and mentoring programs. 4.   Provide more substantial political and financial support to gov-ernment institutions and mandated independent bodies that re-ceive and investigate complaints against the ANSF, such as the Ministry of Interior’s Gender and Human Rights Unit and the Af-ghan Independent Human Rights Commission. 5.   Ensure that ANSF personnel who abuse their authority, violate codes of conduct or otherwise fail to fulfil their obligations under Afghan or international law are transparently investigated and appropriately disciplined and/or prosecuted.  4 6.   Enhance efforts to ensure that the conduct of ANSF personnel is subject to independent oversight, and appropriate information made available to the public. 7.   Ensure that incidents resulting in civilian harm are properly moni-tored and followed by credible, transparent investigations. To the Afghan Government: 8.   The Ministries of Interior and Defence should make a genuine commitment to ensuring that relevant codes of conduct are com-municated to and understood by all ANSF personnel, as well as the public. 9.   In consultation with international military forces and civil society representatives, develop a uniform, consistent, transparent proce-dure for the payment of compensation in the event of civilian harm. To the US and the Afghan Ministry of Interior: 10.   Suspend further expansion of the Afghan Local Police until ap-propriate vetting, training and oversight can be assured, previous initiatives have been evaluated, and independent monitoring of the program has been established. 11.   Terminate community defence initiatives falling outside the for-mal structure of the Afghan National Police, and suspend all gov-ernment funding for such initiatives. To the EU: 12.   Adopt guidelines for EU training missions so as to ensure that these missions build the recipient state’s capacity to promote re-spect for international human rights and humanitarian law. To all states supporting the ANSF: 13.   Develop mechanisms for improved public reporting regarding efforts to enhance the professionalism and accountability of the ANSF, and progress made.
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