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UN official stirs debate with claim of Afghan rights gains

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Investigators reporting on the trend in human rights in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan are reminiscent of the six blind men describing an elephant. At one end of the examined subject is Prof. Felix Ermacora of Austria, the special rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The UN General Assembly's Humanitarian Committee has before it his official finding that there has been ``some improvement'' since his last report a year ago.

At the other extreme, is a new report by an ad hoc multinational panel of international law experts. Operating as the Independent Counsel on International Human Rights, the experts accused the Soviet-Afghan government forces of ``war crimes'' and ``genocidal acts.''

Other groups, including Amnesty International and the seven-faction alliance of Afghan mujahideen (as the resistance fighters are known), also have charged Afghanistan's Moscow-installed regime and its Soviet protectors with torture, indiscriminate bombings of civilians, and other atrocities.

The sometimes conflicting views have been weighed by the humanitarian committee in advance of today's vote on a draft resolution sponsored by nearly 20 Western countries and Japan. As in past years, the text is essentially a condemnation of atrocities attributed to the forces of the Soviet Union and the Kabul regime, headed by strongman Najib.

But reflecting Mr. Ermacora's report, the most moderate he has submitted to the Assembly since he took the post in 1984, the draft ``welcomes'' Kabul's ``cooperation'' in permitting him into Afghanistan for the first time. (Ermacora was in Afghanistan July 30 to Aug. 9 and in Pakistan Sept. 8 to 17.) While expressing ``deep concern'' for the many persons detained without due process in Afghanistan, the draft notes with approval ``a reduction in the number of political prisoners and the release of some prisoners as a result of limited amnesty.''

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