UN says 2005 Afghan rights report's contents were 'public'

4th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

The UN human rights office on Monday played down claims that it "suppressed" a report on Afghanistan five years ago, insisting that the events the report referred to were already public.

A Swiss newspaper, Le Temps, said on Saturday that the United Nations had "deliberately suppressed" a report that accused Soviets, Islamists and US forces of "atrocities" between April 1978 and December 2001 for "political reasons."

"The release of the report was not such an issue because the elements contained in it were already in the public domain," Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights told AFP.

"The High Commissioner at the time, Louise Arbour, went to Kabul and formelly handed the report to the president Karzai in the front of the media and the Afghan Commission for Human Rights," he explained.

Arbour's handover of a report on January 29, 2005, was reported on by international media at the time.

Colville added that Afghan President Mohamed Karzai "by accepting it showed his support" to the principle of placing justice high on the country's politcal agenda.

Le Temps quoted one of the 2005 Afghan report's three authors, American Barnett Rubin, as saying that the UN must have decided not to publish it "at the request of Karzai because it mentioned people still in the Afghan government."

However, in an email to AFP on Saturday, Rubin said that the report contained previously published material and denied that any "secrets" were being hidden from the public.

"The report was a compilation of previously published reports. It contained no revelations based on new research. Every statement in the report is already part of the public record," Rubin wrote.

Reporting from Kabul in January 2005, the New York Times quoted diplomats as saying that publication of the UN report was repeatedly delayed, apparently for fear of destabilizing Afghanistan's fragile political process.

The article in Le Temps emerged a day after the UN published a hotly contested human rights report on crimes committed by armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic Congo at the end of the 1990s.

© 2010 AFP

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