Global Security: Afghanistan and Pakistan - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from Rt Hon Lord Malloch-Brown, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office


  I greatly appreciated the opportunity to give evidence to the FAC on the Government's policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I felt it was a valuable session which covered a lot of ground. There were several points I undertook to follow up for you.

Sir John Stanley mentioned that you had met the British All Party Parliamentary Group during your trip to Afghanistan, and he asked that the British Embassy in Kabul make contact with them. I am pleased to let you know that our Ambassador in Kabul has already invited the Group to the Embassy to meet with him and other officials soon.

  You asked for clarification about the "Shia family law". We too were very concerned by reports that a draft bill on the Personal Status of Followers of Shia Jurisprudence (the "Shia Family Law") would enter into force in Afghanistan. While we have full respect for the independence of the Afghan Government and Afghan democratic institutions, we were gravely concerned that some provisions of the draft bill as it was set out ran counter to the Afghan Constitution and Afghanistan's international human rights obligations. The Prime Minster made our concerns clear to the Afghan Government, both publicly, and privately with President Karzai. We therefore welcomed President Karzai's announcement on 27 April that the law would be changed to bring it in line with the Constitution, which guarantees equal rights for women, and the international treaties to which Afghanistan is a party.

  The law is now under review by a committee established by the Afghan Ministry of Justice. The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has been coordinating the response to the law and held a meeting in May with Afghan MPs, local and international non-governmental organisations, UN agencies and Embassies in which we participated. At the meeting MPs and civil society organisations updated the international community on their efforts to raise this issue with the Government, and their lobbying efforts to persuade President Karzai to ensure that the offending articles are removed. Once the review is completed, the law should go back to Parliament. The UK continues to monitor the situation very closely to ensure that the Afghan Government lives up to its commitment to review the legislation. We will intervene with the Afghan Government again should we consider it necessary.

  You may also be interested to know that the UK and other international partners are assisting the Afghan Government in the drafting of a new law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This is a key piece of legislation which will criminalise acts of violence against women. We hope that the adoption of this law will further serve to strengthen the rights of women in Afghanistan.

  Eric Illsley cited an honour killing which took place in the Kabul area. He said a father had killed his daughter because of her contact with a foreign soldier and that no action had been taken against the father. Despite our best efforts we have not been able to find out any further information about this particular incident, but if Mr Illsley could provide additional details, including the source of his information, we will of course follow up on it.

  I trust that this further information will be useful for your inquiry, and look forward to the release of your report in July.

1 June 2009

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