Capacity Development | Transitional Justice in Afghanistan

PHR has documented human rights abuses in Afghanistan since 1997. Between January and February 2002, PHR experts traveled to northern Afghanistan and reported on the horrific detention conditions facing surrendered combatants and an apparent mass grave in Dasht-e-Leili, where as many as 2,000 prisoners may have been buried.

As part of the grassroots push for transitional justice, PHR partnered with Afghan civil society organizations in a multi-year program called Securing Afghanistan’s Past, in which experts trained a paraprofessional grave site team, held two conferences annually for the duration of the program to create an information-sharing network, and provided an assessment of scientific and technical capabilities that Afghan representatives needed in order to document past abuses.

Since 2009, PHR has helped Afghans develop the local capacity to document and secure mass graves while preventing the destruction of evidence; introduced forensic concepts of such work to government and civil society; and reported on steps needed to develop scientific and technical capabilities to identify the missing.

In 2011, PHR helped form the Afghanistan Forensic Science Organization (AFSO), a group of forensic investigators who are working to strengthen their country’s justice system by mapping and registering mass grave sites throughout the country, and training representatives of the government and NGOs in crime scene documentation.

AFSO, supported by a PHR scientific brief, is also challenging the practice of hymen examinations, also referred to as “virginity testing.” These illegitimate, abusive, and unscientific procedures were banned in 2016, but continue to be widely used in Afghanistan to try to determine a woman’s sexual history, and their results are used as evidence to convict and imprison women for alleged adultery. In July 2018, an official public health policy was put in place to stop the practice from being performed in any clinic or hospital in Afghanistan.