UN experts urge immediate release of Afghan rights defender


GENEVA (22 April 2024) – Afghan human rights defender Ahmad Fahim Azimi must be immediately released from prison, where he has been detained for more than six months by Afghanistan’s de facto authorities, UN experts* said today.

A human rights and girls’ education advocate, Azimi is the head of the Better Thinking Centre and director of the Digital Citizen Lab in Afghanistan. He was imprisoned on 17 October 2023 by the de facto authorities in Afghanistan along with his colleague Siddiqullah Afghan, who was recently released.

Both human rights defenders were subjected to acts that amount to enforced disappearance over a few weeks. The experts have formally communicated with the de facto authorities regarding their case. “We urge the de facto authorities to also release Mr. Azimi without delay. There is no justification for his detention,” they said.

“We are gravely concerned about the wave of arrests of human rights defenders and education activists in Afghanistan, seemingly in connection with their work and advocacy for women’s and girls’ right to education,” they said. “Access to education is a fundamental right. It is essential that those who strive to expand this right are supported and protected, not persecuted.”

*Mr. Richard Bennett, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan; Ms. Aua Baldé (Chair-Rapporteur), Ms. Gabriella Citroni (Vice-Chair), Ms, Angkhana Neelapaijit, Ms. Grażyna Baranowska, and Ms. Ana Lorena Delgadillo Pérez, Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances; and Ms. Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the right to education.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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