Following furore at women’s prison, Finland reallocates funds to Afghan police stations
Väyrynen: Assistance to the country will continue; Afghanistan needs support
In spite of the ongoing investigations into the allegations of prostitution at a women’s prison built in Afghanistan with Finnish funding, Finland intends to continue its assistance to the country, says Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paavo Väyrynen (Centre).
According to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the funds are to be reallocated to some other projects, including the construction of police stations.
On Wednesday May 6th, it was revealed that prostitution has allegedly taken place in the new women’s prison, with the involvement of the prison management.
The Ministry stated that the women’s prison venture in the north of Afghanistan was a development cooperation project which turned out to be too difficult to manage.
The women’s prison, formally opened in March, had 23 female inmates. Five of the prisoners are suspected of participating in prostitution in order to get money, gifts, or drugs.
According to a report on the issue, submitted to the office of Counsellor Rauli Suikkanen of the Unit for Asia and Oceania at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the women had affirmed that they had consented to prostitution voluntarily.
”We will have to find out whether they said so only because they had been intimidated”, Suikkanen notes.
It would be impossible for Finland to clear up all irregularities associated with the prison activities, says Minister Väyrynen.
In order to protect Finnish peacekeepers and civil officials working in Northern Afghanistan from possible acts of revenge, Finland has decided to resort to international organisations in investigating the alleged abuse.
When the problem surfaced in February 2009, before the prison was formally opened, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs asked the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission to investigate the issue.
In addition, the Ministry of Justice of Afghanistan was requested to take steps immediately.
According to reports submitted by the Ministry of Justice of Afghanistan, the prison management has already been replaced.
Finland was to have financed the construction of a men’s prison in Afghanistan as well.
However, all prison projects have been put on hold as a result of the suspected sex-trade activities.
Although Finland has discontinued its prison projects, prison activities in Afghanistan are monitored increasingly, Suikkanen emphasises. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, whose activities are funded by Finland, is following the case. The International Red Cross is also monitoring the situation.
In 2009, Finland’s financial aid to Afghanistan will amount to approximately EUR 15 million, while 95 per cent of the funding is channeled through the World Bank or the United Nations.
Before the abuse at the women’s prison in Sheberghan in the north of Afghanistan came to light, Finland planned to increase its development cooperation funding by EUR 6 million per year. Now the increase in funding is being reconsidered.
In 2008, Finland’s funding in Afghanistan amounted to around EUR 14 million, including humanitarian aid and NGO work.
Finland’s overall development cooperation budget for 2009 is EUR 916 million.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Prostitution alleged to be taking place in Finnish-funded Afghan prison (7.5.2009)
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland press release 8.5.2009