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Human Rights Watch report calls for release of hundreds of jailed Afghan women

Report reveals mass imprisonment of women on dubious "moral" grounds.

HRW-Shafiyah prison releasedEnlarge
Shafiyah, 27, released from prison after three years in jail, poses for a portrait at a shelter run by women for Afghan women in Kabul on October 12, 2011. Shafiyah was arrested by police and imprisoned after fleeing from her husband who became a beggar after the Taliban government was ousted from power. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) today called on the Afghan government to release the estimated 400 girls and women jailed for "moral crime" in a new report accusing authorities of using a sweeping legal premise to justify mass imprisonment.

These girls and women stand accused of things like resisting forced marriage or running away from home, says the report, titled "I Had to Run Away." 

Fully half the country's imprisoned women fall under charges related to "moral crime," CNN reported

More from GlobalPost: Life Sentence: Women and Justice in Afghanistan

Heather Barr, the rights group's Afghanistan researcher, told Al Jazeera today that "Afghanistan is the only Islamic government in the world that specifically criminalized running away."

The report accused Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government of neglecting to reign in judicial corruption that clearly violated international human rights law.

The New York-based group condemned judges who the abuse vague constitutional language of article 130, which allows for wide interpretation when there are no "other laws regarding ruling on an issue" -- such as running away from an abusive home, according to Al Jazeera

Some Afghan prosecutors believe the article allows for interpretations of Islamic law, said Al Jazeera, quoting Barr as saying the article serves as a legal loophole that gives local authorities "a blank cheque" for "the creation of new crimes."

Women jailed for "moral crime" often face long prison sentences, some over 10 years, said the HRW report, which was based off interviews with 58 girls and women. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/afghanistan/120328/human-rights-watch-report-calls-release-hundre