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Tuesday 1 November 2005
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AFGHANISTAN: Many candidates still linked to armed groups

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

KABUL, 24 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - Despite significant progress on preparations for autumn polls, some candidates of Afghanistan’s upcoming parliamentary elections are still linked with armed groups and some are holding stocks of weapons, the United Nations and a local human rights body warned.

The concern was raised after the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) released a joint report on the verification of political rights prior to the Wolesi Jerga [lower house] and provincial council elections slated September.

“The challenge and vetting process was met with disappointment. Of the 208 suspected candidates with links to armed groups, unfortunately only 11 were disqualified,” Sima Samar head of AIHRC said on Monday.

Samar said, however, that 4,052 weapons had been collected from candidates with links to armed groups. The disarmament of the candidates and their armed affiliates was still seen as less than complete and most of the candidates still possessed stocks of arms and ammunition.

There are in fact few verified cases of direct intimidation from these candidates but some commanders are attempting to dominate the electoral process, as reflected in the report, added Samar.

The verification process shows that the greatest threat to the elections continues to come from anti-government elements.

According to the new report, an escalation of violence against candidates has been seen in the east, southeastern and southern parts of the country.

“Fortunately these threats have not disrupted the elections process but there is a concern that it could have an impact on candidates’ ability to campaign,” Samar noted.

More than 5,000 Afghans have registered to stand in the legislature and provincial council elections scheduled for 18 September. According to the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) - a UN-Afghan organisation overseeing the election - of the 2,900 people who have registered to run for the 249-seat Wolesi Jerga, or lower house, nearly 350 are women. Afghan electoral law requires that at least 68 seats in the general assembly be reserved for women.

The report mentions two cases in which candidates have been the targets of threats and attacks due to statements they have made in public. In one case, a women from southern Kandahar was shot at after receiving threatening phone calls warning her not to make remarks against the Mujahideen - those religious fighters who opposed the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

In the second incident, the house and car of a candidate who edits a secular newspaper known for being critical of religiously-inspired violence, were the targets of an arson attack, according to the report.

Meanwhile, improvised attacks and ambushes of government, JEMB and private vehicles continue to be the main impediment to freedom of movement within the country, said the rights advocate.

“However, we also take note of a candidate being detained by Satar, the former district governor of Seyagird district of Parwan [province], and Mustafi, the current [Seyagird] district chief of police,” Samar added.

The United Nations in Kabul also expressed disappointment that some people with links to armed groups have managed to get through the vetting process.

According to UNAMA, about 90 percent of the cases of complaints against candidates were not supported by evidence making the vetting process challenging and problematic for the Election Complaints Commission (ECC).

“We are concerned by the escalating threats. We are concerned with the links of some of the candidates to illegally armed groups,” Ameerah Haq, deputy UN special envoy in Afghanistan, said.

Vigilance with regard to candidates suspected of links to armed groups would continue up to the time of elections and any violation could still disqualify them at any time during the electoral process, she said.


 Theme(s) Democracy
Other recent AFGHANISTAN reports:

United Nations and rights bodies criticise jailing of journalist,  25/Oct/05

Earthquake kills five in south,  24/Oct/05

People surrender arms but want rebuilding,  20/Oct/05

Rights body warns of warlords’ success in elections,  18/Oct/05

UN-Afghan aid to Pakistan underway,  17/Oct/05

Other recent Democracy & Governance reports:

SOMALIA: UN envoy commends Somaliland's stability, 1/Nov/05

ETHIOPIA: Opposition party calls for consumer boycott, 1/Nov/05

TANZANIA: Zanzibar polls end amid claims of irregularities, intimidation, 31/Oct/05

KENYA: Four killed in clashes at referendum campaign, 31/Oct/05

GUINEA: Opposition throws hat into ring for local elections, 31/Oct/05

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