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U.N.: Rights in Afghanistan deteriorating

UNITED NATIONS, March 5 (UPI) -- Human rights in Afghanistan are worsening, marked by setbacks for women, attacks on freedoms and seeming impunity for perpetrators, a U.N. report indicates.

Afghans still suffer "significant rights deficits," which challenges their ability to enjoy their rights and to the country's prospects for peace, stability, development and the rule of law, said the annual report on Afghanistan of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was presented Thursday to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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The agency urged the Afghan government and the international community to address the issue of impunity, which the UNHCHR said not only undermines Afghan law enforcement and judicial institutions but has also eroded people's confidence in the government and public institutions, the U.N. agency said in a news release.

"Gross human rights violations remain a serious threat to continuing efforts to transform Afghan society," the report said. "A culture of impunity prevails, and is deeply entrenched; this is manifested in the lack of political will to advance the transitional justice process to address past abuses as well as the absence of accountability for current human rights violations."

Concerning women, the report said violence against women such as rape, "honor killings," early and forced marriage, sexual abuse and slavery remain widespread.

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The report said freedom of expression was significantly curtailed throughout 2008, characterized by threats, intimidation, and killings of journalists.

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