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Afghanistan Needs Sustained Support, Says UN Expert - 2003-04-03

A United Nations expert on Afghanistan says the country needs sustained financial and political support from the international community if security and human rights are to take root.

The U.N. special investigator for human rights in Afghanistan, Kamal Hossain, has warned the international community not to forget the central Asian nation.

Mr. Hossain told the U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva that insufficient funding for Afghanistan could jeopardize the development of such groups as the army and police, which are important to ensure stability. He adds that a cut in funding could also hinder advances made in the human rights field after years of Taleban abuse. "Afghanistan should not be neglected at this very critical stage in its transition, where it is halfway down the road and the next half is the really tough part of it. Constitution, elections, establishment of representative institutions and security," he said. "Without security you have the minimum concept of a state delivering what is expected of it - which is the security of life, property, people. This can only be done with the capacity for security to build up police, army, national institutions."

Mr. Hossain says Afghanistan has 1,700 soldiers but requires a 70,000 strong army. And while it has hundreds of trained police, he says, it needs thousands more to properly police a country of 25 million people. The absence of enough security forces, he says, emboldens warlords in far-flung areas of the country to harass different ethnic tribes and to roll back educational opportunities for women and girls. "Some of these violations that we hear about against local ethnic groups or against women is by armed people - people who work under local commanders," said Mr. Hossain. "In order to enforce and protect human rights, you need capacity in order to deal those who are the violators."

Mr. Hossain says the Afghan interim government, headed by Hamid Karzai, would like to arrest those responsible, but it lacks sufficient force.

The U.N. special investigator welcomed Afghanistan's signing on to the International Criminal Court. He says warlords who commit future atrocities can now face prosecution by the court.

So far Afghanistan has received almost $2 billion out the $4.5 billion pledged by the international community. The World Bank says it needs more like $15 billion. While the country's finance minister says $20 to $30 billion are needed for rebuilding over the next five years.