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Karzai urged to appoint rights experts

KABUL -- A U.S.-based group urged the Afghan president Thursday to appoint independent and experienced human rights experts to seats on a national commission left vacant for nine months.

It was the second time in days that Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised rights concerns with President Hamid Karzai, following his nomination of a cabinet minister implicated in torture to head the country's spy agency.

The five-year terms of nine commissioners serving on the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission expired in December 2011.

Among those dropped was the country's most outspoken rights activist, Nader Nadery, who had been documenting atrocities committed over the past three decades, with many of those implicated now in prominent positions of power.

But Karzai had announced plans not to reappoint three members.

HRW said a fourth seat was also vacant after the commissioner responsible for children's rights was killed with her family in a suicide attack in January 2011.

“The human rights situation in Afghanistan is extremely fragile and the national human rights commission should be at full strength to do its part to protect all Afghans,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW.

He said the commission, “one of the most important and effective institutions created since 2001,” cannot fully function with uncertainty about its leadership.

“President Karzai should demonstrate his commitment to the human rights commission by appointing highly-qualified members as soon as possible,” he said.

HRW last week urged Karzai not to appoint cabinet minister Asadullah Khalid as head of the National Directorate of Security.

He has been accused over torture, drug-trafficking and corruption. Parliament has to approve his nomination before he takes office.

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