The Delegation of the European Union to Yemen

Afghanistan: remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the European Parliament Plenary session debate on violations of human rights

Strasbourg, 19/12/2019 - 14:16, UNIQUE ID: 191219_10

Afghanistan: closing remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the European Parliament Plenary session debate on violations of human rights including religious freedoms, notably the allegations of sexual abuse of boys in the Logar Province

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President, dear members, 

For sure there are, in our developed and affluent societies, cases of child abuse. We could also discuss the war in Afghanistan and why we, Western people, have been there for almost twenty years: what were the causes, the results, consequences. We can talk about all of that. 

But today, what brings us here is a specific case - the part of the iceberg rising above water. Because the data about child abuses in Afghanistan is unhappily much, much, much bigger than one could compare with our societies. The data we have shows very clearly that the Logar case is the part of the iceberg that you see. 

Between 2016 and 2018, the United Nations Task Force verified 40,000 grave violations against children throughout the country, many of which were of serious concern. 80% of civilian casualties are children. And notwithstanding monitoring and verification constraints, the recruitment and use of 274 children and the perpetration of acts of sexual violence against many others, the abduction of 2,030, 800 attacks on schools and hospitals… I will not continue, it is clear that this is not exactly the same problem as here [within the EU]. 

In Afghanistan in 2017, they wanted to revise the penal code, which entered into force in 2018, explicitly criminalising the so-called Bacha bazi. But it is very difficult to change the habits, the influence of powerful people. Impunity is very widespread and victims face stigma and exclusion from society. We have to continue fighting because this children protection act had to be approved by a presidential decree, and later the lower house of the parliament refused it, arguing that there was not a quorum to approve an article. On 11 December 2019, they were still discussing it. The Law on the Protection of Child Rights was rejected four times by the Parliament in the past four years. It shows how strong is the resistance to change laws and, mainly, habits, in a society that unhappily presents such a kind of behaviour that we have to fight and help to fight. We have to help to fight, trying to improve the rights of children in Afghanistan. We are doing as much as we can and we will continue to do so, knowing that at the end, to change a society is much more difficult, a long-standing endeavour than just publishing a law on paper. 

We have organised recently a public debate entitled: ‘Children of Afghanistan: they deserve a better future’, which drew wide interests from officials and the general public. In addition, our annual human rights dialogue between the European Union and the Afghan government systematically includes a chapter on the specific situation of children, where such matters as children in armed conflict, child marriage, or violence against children are addressed.  

For sure, there are also cases of abuses inside the armed forces and the EU addresses this matter in a systematic manner, paying attention to the minors recruited by the armed and security forces, and to the behaviour of soldiers and policemen towards the civilian population. We have a Police Advisory Project, which includes a gender segment, which is also meant to benefit the young people.  

As you see it is a grave problem. We are trying to help the Afghan authorities and society to fight against it. And I think that it is very important that the European Parliament echoes these events in order to fight against them. 

Thank you. 

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