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Afghan Provincial Officials Back Public Lashing
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Amnesty International is condemning as "abhorrent" the public flogging of a man and a woman in Afghanistan for "adultery."

In a statement issued on September 2, the human rights organization called on Afghan authorities to hold to account those responsible.

The couple was illegally sentenced to 100 lashes by a primary court in western Ghor Province.

One of the court's judges in Cheghcheran town later carried out the punishment in public in the presence of police and other officials on 30 August 2015.

However, it only came to public attention after being broadcast on Afghan TV.

"Corporal punishments constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and in this case, with the degree of violence and humiliation shown, may amount to torture," said Horia Mosadiq, Amnesty International's Afghanistan researcher.

"This is far from an isolated example of cruel and unlawful punishments being handed down and carried out in Afghanistan, which is particularly common in the informal justice system that still exists in many parts of the country," Mosadiq explained.

The Taliban and other armed insurgent groups are also often responsible for meting out corporal punishments in public, as well as carrying out public executions.

Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko is one of the imprisoned women being highlighted by the U.S. State Department's new campaign.

WASHINGTON -- The United States has launched a campaign to highlight cases of women who Washington says have been “unjustly imprisoned” by governments around the world.

Under the initiative announced September 1 by Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the U.S. State Department will profile 20 cases of women deemed by the United States to be “political prisoners” or “prisoners of concern.”

The campaign will profile Ukrainian military pilot and parliament member Nadia Savchenko, jailed in Russia on charges of participating in the murder of Russian journalists covering the Ukraine conflict, as well as Leyla Yunus and Khadija Ismayilova, critics of the Azerbaijani government imprisoned on charges widely considered to be politically motivated.

Others include Uzbek rights activist Matluba Kamilova, who Human Rights Watch says has been imprisoned for exercising free speech, and Iranian student activist Bahareh Hedayat, who was jailed amid a 2009 crackdown after street protests over a contentious presidential election.

“In naming these women, we are sending a message to their governments and others like them: If you want to empower women, don’t imprison them on the basis of their views or on the basis of the rights that they’re fighting for,” Power told reporters in Washington.

“Free these 20 women and free the countless women and girls like them behind bars,” Power added.

The State Department has dubbed the initiative the #FreeThe20 campaign. It will profile one case per day in the run-up to the 20th anniversary this month of a UN initiative to empower women “in all spheres of public and private life.”

The campaign kicked off by highlighting the case of Chinese rights lawyer Wang Yu, who was detained by Chinese police in July in a sweeping crackdown on lawyers and civic activists.

“We will continue to repeat Wang Yu’s name and that of other women like her over the coming days, women like the brave Azeri journalist Khadija Ismayilova,” Power said.

A Baku court on September 1 sentenced Ismayilova, an investigative journalist and a contributor to RFE/RL, to 7 1/2 years in prison after convicting her of tax evasion, illegal business activity, and abuse of power.

Rights groups call the conviction retribution for her reports on corruption involving senior government officials.

With reporting by The Associated Press

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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