Watchdog accuses Taliban of committing gender persecution amounting to crimes against humanity

Women’s protest in Kabul. File photo.

A report from Human Rights Watch (HRW), released on Friday, alleges that members of the Taliban are committing the crime against humanity of gender persecution against women and girls in Afghanistan.

According to the report, over the past two years, the Taliban has instituted laws and policies with the explicit intent of depriving women and girls of their basic rights solely based on their gender.

Elizabeth Evenson, International Justice Director at Human Rights Watch, underscored the global significance of the Taliban’s systematic suppression of women and girls, stating, “The Taliban’s cruel and methodical denial of the basic rights of women and girls to remove them from public life has received global attention.”

Evenson stressed the necessity of coordinated support from concerned governments to hold Taliban leaders accountable for their actions.

The report points out that, under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), crimes against humanity encompass a range of prohibited acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic assault on a civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.

The watchdog highlighted that persecution, as defined by international law, involves the deliberate and severe violation of fundamental rights based on the identity of the targeted group.

In accordance with HRW, gender persecution extends to persecution based on sex characteristics or the social constructs and criteria used to define gender.

HRW’s research on Afghanistan since 2021, as outlined in the report, reveals that the crime against humanity of persecution, particularly targeting women and girls, has been implemented through various decrees issued by the Taliban.

These decrees have imposed severe restrictions on freedom of movement, expression, and association, banned most employment opportunities, prohibited secondary and higher education, and sanctioned arbitrary arrests and violations of the right to liberty within the country.

The watchdog has called upon the Taliban to dismantle all forms of repression and discrimination that infringe upon the fundamental rights of women and girls.

Afghanistan is a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and in October 2022, the ICC prosecutor was granted authorization to reinstate an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan.

Evenson expressed, “The International Criminal Court’s investigation in Afghanistan could provide a path toward accountability for the crime against humanity of gender persecution.”

She further urged governments to ensure that the court receives the necessary resources and cooperation to investigate this crime alongside other grave violations of rights.