Canada Concerned by Changes to Afghanistan’s Criminal Procedure Code

February 4, 2014 - The Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular), today issued the following statement:

“Canada is deeply concerned by reports that the Government of Afghanistan may enact legislation that would restrict officials from questioning the relatives of a criminal suspect. If adopted, this legislation could seriously hamper the investigation of crimes—particularly those against Afghan women and girls, including sexual and domestic violence and child, early and forced marriage—in which the accused is a relative. This law would further limit protections for those who need it most, make it harder to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions and deny victims access to justice.

“During my recent visit to Afghanistan, I had the opportunity to meet with many courageous Afghans who are working to maintain and advance the rights women and girls have gained since 2001. Canada is committed to supporting their efforts to ensure that hard-fought gains regarding the rights of women and girls are not rolled back for a false sense of stability. Peace cannot exist when half the population has no security.

“We strongly oppose any legislation that would restrict officials from fully investigating cases of violence against women and girls. Canada stresses that all Afghan laws must ensure strong protections for women and girls, as guaranteed by the Afghan constitution and in line with Afghanistan’s international commitments to protect human rights.

“Canada calls on the Afghan government to uphold its commitment to protecting all of Afghanistan’s citizens, especially women and girls.”

A backgrounder follows.

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Backgrounder - Afghanistan’s Criminal Procedure Code

On January 21, 2014, the Afghan parliament passed a revised Criminal Procedure Code. According to a Human Rights Watch report published on February 4, the revised code would prohibit authorities from questioning relatives of a criminal suspect. If adopted, this prohibition would disproportionately affect victims of sexual and domestic violence, and child, early and forced marriage—crimes to which family members are often the only witnesses.