AFGHANISTAN, CASE N° AFG/01 - MALALAI JOYA

Inter-Parliamentary Union, Geneva, 15 October 2008

Malalai Joya

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the case of Ms. Malalai Joya, a member of the House of the People of Afghanistan, as outlined in the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/183/12(b)-R.1), and to the resolution adopted at its 182nd session (April 2008),

Noting that the Committee met with the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and two other members of the Afghan delegation at the session it held during the 119th Assembly, and taking account of the information the delegation provided,

Taking account of the information provided by various sources on 5 September and 10 October 2008,

Recalling that on 21 May 2007 the House of the People of Afghanistan (Wolesi Jirga) decided to suspend the parliamentary mandate of Ms. Joya, member of parliament for Farah province, until the end of her term for violating Article 70 of the Standing Orders in respect of a television interview in which she had spoken disparagingly of members of parliament, apparently in the context of her staunch criticism of the former warlords; noting that the recording of the television interview in question was reportedly edited intentionally to discredit her and to provoke her suspension and that she herself, despite requests, has not been given a recording of the interview,

Considering that, according to Article 70 of the Standing Orders (Rules of Procedure), the Speaker of the House of the People can apply as a disciplinary measure advice, warning, publishing the name of the offender in the official Gazette of the Jirga and depriving the offending member from attending the session of that day, but that a member can be suspended for a period of longer than one day only at the request of the Administrative Board and with the subsequent approval of Parliament; however, this procedure was not followed in Ms. Joya's case as the Administrative Board was not seized and did not issue any recommendation,

Considering in this respect that, according to a report published on 25 September 2008 in the Pajhwok Afghan News Agency, the Chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Immunity and Privileges of Members of Parliament, Mr. Gul Padshah Majedi, stated that Ms. Joya's expulsion was unlawful, of which statement the Afghan delegation was unaware; that, however, while affirming that Ms. Joya's words were highly insulting, the Deputy Speaker stated that her suspension was against parliamentary norms and should not have happened; that Ms. Joya should contact the Speaker or himself to ensure a smooth restoration of her mandate; and noting that he affirmed that every effort would be made to restore Ms. Joya's mandate before the end of the current parliamentary session, which would be in one and a half months' time,

Recalling that Ms. Joya had immediately protested against her suspension and the procedure followed to secure it; but that only in February 2008, after she had collected the money to pay for legal counsel and found a lawyer willing to take up her case, was she able to file a petition with the Supreme Court; that, according to the sources, the Supreme Court has, however, taken no action so far, claiming to be awaiting a response from parliament; that the efforts of Ms. Joya and her lawyer to obtain such a response have been to no avail and that she and anyone representing her have been banned from going to parliament; noting nevertheless that, according to the Deputy Speaker, she was not banned and should have written a letter to the Speaker or himself,

Recalling that, according to the sources, members of parliament have regularly criticized one another, but that no one else has been suspended on such grounds, not even those who have called Ms. Joya a "prostitute" and a "whore" and have reportedly called for her to be raped and killed; noting that, according to the Deputy Speaker, no one has been suspended as no one else had used such disparaging language and that any member who had indisputably called Ms. Joya a whore or prostitute should also be punished,

Bearing in mind lastly that Ms. Joya has constantly been receiving death threats and that her safety in Afghanistan is at risk, in common with that of many other members of parliament,

  1. Thanks the Afghan delegation for its cooperation and for the information and observations provided;

  2. Stresses that suspension is a disciplinary measure usually applied as a last resort only and necessarily limited in time, normally one day and only in extreme cases and for recidivist members can it, in some parliaments, amount to a maximum of 30 days, and that a suspension for the entire term is in fact tantamount to a revocation of the parliamentary mandate, wholly unlawful in this case as insulting language is not a proper cause for the dismissal of a member of parliament; points out therefore that the parliament is not entitled to pronounce a suspension for the entire term of a member of parliament;

  3. Deeply regrets that Ms. Joya has been prevented from exercising her mandate for 17 months and her electorate deprived of representation in parliament on the basis of an unlawful decision by parliament;

  4. Is therefore very pleased to note that the parliamentary authorities recognize that Ms. Joya's mandate should be restored as quickly as possible, and earnestly hopes that this will indeed happen before the end of the current parliamentary session;

  5. Calls once again on the authorities to do everything in their power to identify and bring to justice those making the death threats against Ms. Joya; reaffirms in this respect that the Parliament of Afghanistan has a special responsibility when the security of its members is at stake and that preventing impunity is in the last analysis the best means of protecting the safety of members not only of parliament but also of the people; would appreciate information as to the steps the parliamentary authorities have taken or envisage taking to this end;

  6. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the parliamentary authorities and to the source;

  7. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session, to be held on the occasion of the 120th Assembly of the IPU (April 2009), when it hopes to be able to close the case following its satisfactory settlement.