The UN human rights chief on Tuesday expressed fears that progress made in Afghanistan since the fall of the hardline Taliban regime in 2001 was draining away as NATO-led troops withdraw.
Navi Pillay said on a visit to Kabul that she had heard growing evidence of a sharp reversal in human rights, especially for women, despite more than a decade of international intervention and billions of dollars of aid.
"I do have serious concerns that the human rights situation in the country is deteriorating," the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights told reporters.
"I had lengthy discussions with civil society activists. They have made it clear to me that they feel that the gains of the (last) 12 years are vulnerable and at risk of being reversed."
Pillay, on her first visit to Afghanistan, said she had sought assurances from President Hamid Karzai that advancements in human rights in the ultra-conservative country would be protected.
"My concern that the momentum of improvement in human rights may not only have peaked, but is in reality waning, has not been allayed," she said.
"Afghanistan needs to brace itself to ensure that the tumultuous changes that will take place before the end of 2014 do not trigger a serious deterioration in human rights."
Afghanistan faces a potentially destabilising presidential election in April and the remaining 87,000 NATO combat troops deployed in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban insurgents will withdraw by the end of next year.
The threat to women in Afghanistan was underlined on Monday when the senior policewoman in the Taliban heartlands of the south died after being shot by assassins, months after her predecessor was also gunned down.