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Afghanistan: Instability Brings 'Extremely Poor' Rights Conditions

Washington, 26 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. says Afghanistan is a country marked by civil war and political instability, with no functioning central government and civil institutions mostly non-existent.

The assessment comes from the State Department's annual report on the status of human rights in almost 200 nations around the world. The report was made public today.

The U.S. says the ultra-conservative Islamic movement known as the Taliban controls 85 percent of the country, including the capital city of Kabul. The report says Taliban members committed numerous and serious human rights abuses in 1998.

The State Department noted that its Kabul embassy has been closed since 1989, so that first-hand information on the human rights conditions in the country is limited.

According to the report, citizens have no chance at present to change their government peacefully. The report said there were credible stories of large-scale massacres carried out by the Taliban when they captured Mazar-i-Sharif in August.

The report said prison conditions are poor and summary justice is common. In Taliban areas, the U.S. says strict and oppressive order is imposed and severe punishments for crimes prevail.

The report noted that years of conflict have left more than 300,000 Afghans homeless and dispossessed in their own country.