Afghanistan: Six months after takeover, no accountability for Taliban abuses

Press release
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Six months since the Taliban’s violent takeover of Afghanistan, FIDH and its member organization OPEN ASIA|Armanshahr Foundation call on United Nations (UN) bodies, international human rights protection mechanisms, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take stronger measures to stop the erosion of human rights and hold perpetrators of abuses accountable. Despite Taliban pledges to respect basic human rights, the situation in the country has worsened over the past six months, particularly impacting women, journalists, and human rights defenders (HRDs).

Amid an all-out assault on human rights—including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, and torture—HRDs, women’s rights activists, and other civil society actors have been particularly vulnerable to such violations. Despite the risks and a climate of fear on the ground, information concerning human rights violations continues to be collected and reported by HRDs and journalists. Although it is almost impossible to have a comprehensive picture of the human rights situation in the country and to systematically collect data, preliminary figures obtained by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) indicate that at least eight civil society activists and two journalists have been killed since 15 August 2021. In addition, 44 journalists and 10 civil society activists have been arbitrarily detained.

Worryingly, it appears the Taliban are resorting to using enforced disappearances and violence as a means to silence civil society. Four women HRDs were held in incommunicado detention by the Taliban for several weeks after participating in a demonstration related to women’s rights on 16 January 2022, before being released on 11 and 13 February 2022. An additional 16 women HRDs are reported to be unaccounted for, according to FIDH sources. These violations against civil society are occurring against a backdrop of regression in areas where improvements had been achieved since 2021, including women’s rights, access to education, and the development of a vibrant media sector.

“Since 15 August, we have watched the Taliban systematically dismantle the human rights gains made over the past 20 years, using a reign of terror and reprisals against anyone perceived as a threat to their rule. Meanwhile, many countries engaging unconditionally with the Taliban fail to properly address human rights violations and push for accountability for these grave abuses.”

Guissou Jahangiri, Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA Executive Director and FIDH Vice-President

With the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session starting on 28 February 2022, during which a UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan will be appointed, FIDH and OPEN ASIA|Armanshahr Foundation call on members of the UNHRC to pledge their full support for this new mandate-holder and to support the continued, systematic monitoring by UN bodies and mechanisms of the human rights situation in Afghanistan.

FIDH and OPEN ASIA|Armanshahr Foundation also call on the UN Security Council to renew UNAMA’s mandate, which expires on 17 March 2022, and to ensure that UNAMA is fully resourced to continue carrying out its human rights monitoring and documentation mandate independently.

“The time is now for UN member states to show unity, including by ensuring effective mechanisms are set up to monitor human rights violations and hold the Taliban to account. This means ensuring that UNAMA’s mandate is renewed with a strong political and human rights mandate and identifying concrete pathways for securing accountability for human rights violators.”

Juliette Rousselot, FIDH West and South Asia Program Officer
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