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5/23/04 - HUMAN RIGHTS IN AFGHANISTAN - 2004-05-24

Since its liberation from the Taleban regime’s brutal rule, Afghanistan has been making significant progress in establishing institutions of democracy and governance. The U.S. supports Afghanistan as it evolves into a nation that respects human rights, possesses strong democratic institutions and an independent judiciary, and conducts free and fair national elections under a new constitution. President George W. Bush says, “The people of Afghanistan are a world away from the nightmare of the Taleban”:

“Citizens of Afghanistan have adopted a new constitution, guaranteeing free elections and full participation by women. The new Afghan army is becoming a vital force of stability in that country. Businesses are opening, health care centers are being established, and the children of Afghanistan are back in school, [both] boys and girls.”

But problems persist, says a new U.S. State Department report on “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy.” Members of local militias still commit acts of violence. Instances of torture, prolonged pretrial detention, and poor prison conditions continue in Afghanistan.

While these challenges remain, nearly three-million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taleban. Their return is seen by many observers as a sign of confidence and hope for a better future.

The U.S. and other countries are committed to assisting the Afghan government in rebuilding national security institutions and reforming the judicial system. These efforts include initiatives to promote independent media, support the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, promote women’s rights, and end illegal narcotics trafficking. President Bush says that the U.S., its friends and allies are working together in Afghanistan:

“This progress is a tribute to the brave Afghan people, and to the efforts of many nations. NATO -- including forces from Canada, France, Germany, and other nations -- is leading the effort to provide security. Japan and Saudi Arabia have helped to complete the highway from Kabul to Kandahar, which is furthering commerce and unifying the country. Italy is working with Afghans to reform their legal system and strengthen an independent judiciary.”

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s interim president, says, “The United States...has helped tremendously in the past year to rebuild Afghanistan.” And it is beginning to pay off.