Afghanistan: international community must prevent human rights catastrophe

Sayed Najafizada / NurPhoto via AFP

Paris — As the United Nations (UN) Security Council meets today to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, FIDH urges the international community to ensure that the country’s de facto government ensures the protection of civilians, including human rights defenders (HRDs), the respect of human rights, including women’s and children’s rights, and the establishment of a clear timeline towards free, fair, inclusive, and participatory elections that reflect the will of the Afghan people.

Read our open letter to ministers of foreign affairs on the urgency of issuing emergency visas to human rights defenders and others.

“Recent shocking developments in Afghanistan have the potential to lead to large-scale human rights violations and destabilize the region. Given the Taliban’s abysmal human rights credentials, it is vital the international community monitor the situation closely and promptly act to prevent a human rights catastrophe.”

Guissou Jahangiri, FIDH Vice President

The international community has a responsibility to ensure that the rights of all Afghans, especially those who are most vulnerable, are protected. UN Security Council members should ensure that concrete measures are adopted and implemented to protect civilians, support HRDs – including their right to seek asylum and not be subjected to refoulement – and fund humanitarian relief efforts.

The UN Human Rights Council should urgently convene a special session and pass a resolution calling for the protection of civilians - including HRDs, journalists, and members of civil society - and the respect of human rights in accordance with international treaties to which Afghanistan is a state party.

The international community should also press Afghanistan’s de facto government to unequivocally support the ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. Similarly, the safety of survivors, witnesses, HRDs, and civil society members who have contributed to the investigative and outreach efforts of the ICC must be ensured. It is also crucial that physical and digital evidence of these crimes be secured and transferred to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC without further delay.


The Taliban’s previous stint in power, from 1996 to 2001, was marred by serious human rights violations, particularly with regard to women’s and children’s rights. In addition to enacting and enforcing edicts that severely restricted virtually all aspects of women’s lives, including their freedom of movement, their right to education, and their right to work, the Taliban have a long history of threatening and attacking members of civil society, including those who advocate for human rights, education and democracy, media workers, academics, and members of ethnic minorities, in particular the Hazaras.

Over the past several weeks, reports have already begun emerging of human rights violations in areas controlled by the Taliban, including attacks against HRDs and journalists, the shuttering of schools, and reprisals against civilians who worked for the Afghan government or foreign governments. The Taliban’s offensive in recent months has also led to a drastic increase in internal displacement - approximately 244,000 people since May alone. [1]

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC is investigating alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan since 2003. Many Afghans have contributed to the documentation of crimes by all sides in the conflict, including government forces, the Taliban, other armed groups, and US-led forces.

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