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UN Human Rights Commissioner Calls for Investigation in Afghanistan - 2001-12-07

The UN Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, says the United Nations must investigate reported human rights abuses taking place in Afghanistan. Speaking in Geneva Friday ahead of Human Rights Day on Monday, she also expressed concern about possible racial profiling in the United States.

UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson said closer scrutiny is needed into the deaths last month of several hundred pro-Taleban prisoners in the northern Afghan town of Mazar-e-Sherif. She argued that Afghans found to be human rights violators should not participate in any future administration of the country. Ms. Robinson also expressed concern over what she said were mounting deaths and injuries of ordinary Afghans killed in bombings of hospitals and other facilities. "It is a substantial toll of civilian deaths and injuries and also serious damage to hospitals, old peoples' homes and other facilities that are vital to a vulnerable, impoverished people, with a very serious winter and with a lack of adequate food," she said. "Therefore, all the more need for adequate shelter and healthcare, and these must be the priorities. I must insist on these being the priorities, because the people of Afghanistan, who are dispersed throughout their country and who are terrified, cannot speak for themselves."

Ms. Robinson said she understands U.S. government concerns about rooting out terrorism. But she cautioned against what she calls a "new type of racial profiling" of Arabs and South Asians in the United States in the search for suspected terrorists. She said there need to be "safeguards" concerning detentions and wire-tapping in the United States. "They should be very limited. They should specifically be required as being necessary. They should be hopefully for a very limited time. So, it's all about what are the kind of safeguards?" she said. "At the moment, in a broad sweep way, I am unhappy that there are not safeguards built into the military order which the president has issued, and that the language is vague and worrying."

Turning to the surge in violence between Israel and the Palestinians, Ms. Robinson condemned both the Palestinian suicide attacks on Israeli civilians and Israel's military response in the West Bank and Gaza. She reiterated her call for independent monitors. "It's one of those very unusual situations where there is not a movement to have independent monitors - to have eyes and ears on the ground, which I believe would be a life-saving deterrent and give reassurance to the civilian populations," she asserted. Ms. Robinson said two small missions from the Human Rights Commission will soon travel to Afghanistan. One will investigate alleged massacres, while the other will assess the human rights situation in the country.