Baird Urges Karzai to Protect the Rights of Women and Girls

February 12, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:

“Canada strongly believes Afghan laws must ensure strong protections for women and girls, as guaranteed by the Afghan constitution and in line with Afghanistan’s international human rights obligations.

“To this end, we have deep concerns with the Criminal Procedure Code before President Karzai.

“Canada urges President Karzai to reject this legislation outright, and to uphold the commitment of the Afghan government to protect the rights of all Afghan citizens, especially the rights of women and girls.”

A backgrounder follows.

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Backgrounder - Afghanistan’s Proposed New Criminal Procedure Code

On January 21, 2014, the Afghan parliament passed a new Criminal Procedure Code. The code contains a provision (Article 26) that would prohibit police from questioning the family members of a criminal suspect. This prohibition would create a significant obstacle to prosecuting crimes against women and girls—including domestic violence; child, early and forced marriage; and sexual assault—for which relatives of an accused are often the only witnesses.

The text of the law was made public on February 4. That same day, the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular), issued a statement expressing Canada’s deep concern over the potential effects of Article 26.

The law was sent to President Hamid Karzai for signature on February 9. Under Afghan law, the President has 15 days to endorse the law or veto it. If he endorses the law, it will be effective immediately. If he vetoes it, the Lower House of Parliament can still override his veto with a two-thirds majority vote. If he does nothing, the law will automatically enter into force after 15 days.

Officials at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada have been instructed to express Canada’s views to Afghan officials both in Ottawa and Kabul regarding the legislation. Also, Canada’s Ambassador to Afghanistan has been asked to advocate for Afghan women at every opportunity.