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ROOM UPDATE: U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Briefing on Human Rights in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), will hold a briefing entitled, “Human Rights in Afghanistan.” The briefing will be held on Thursday, March 26, 2009, at 2:30 p.m., in the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) Auditorium.

The briefing will examine the current state of human rights in Afghanistan, a Partner for Cooperation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). While some progress has been made, rule of law and protection of human rights remains fragile. Human rights defenders and civil society leaders face harassment, intimidation, and violence. Women and girls continue to be threatened and even attacked as they try to go to work or school. Journalists have been jailed for speaking out and killed by extremists. The death penalty has been imposed on those who seek to convert from Islam to Christianity.

WITNESSES

Dr. Sima Samar chairs the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, which was established in 2002 to promote and protect human rights in the country and to investigate and verify cases of human rights violations. Dr. Samar served as Vice-Premier of Afghanistan in the first interim government in 2002, and later as Minister for Women’s Issues. She resigned following death threats from religious extremists. Dr. Samar earned her reputation as a human rights activist through her work caring for Afghan women refugees and the establishment of the Shuhada Organization, which is dedicated to providing health care and education to Afghan women and girls. Dr. Samar has received numerous human rights awards for her work and has been on the Forbes list of top 100 most powerful women. She also serves as the UN Special Envoy to Darfur, Sudan.

Mr. Scott Worden is an adviser for the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Rule of Law Program. He previously served as an adviser to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on human rights and elections issues, as well as to the Afghanistan Joint Election Management Body on the conduct of the 2005 Parliamentary elections. Before serving in Afghanistan, Worden worked with several Cambodian human rights NGOs on legal reform projects, including advocating procedures for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to try former Khmer Rouge leaders.

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