US calls for Taliban to be held accountable over human rights violations

A senior US diplomat David Johnson, said Tuesday that until the Taliban honors their word to respect the human rights of all people in Afghanistan, the international community must monitor the situation in Afghanistan with vigilance and hold the Taliban accountable.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan, Johnson, Washington’s Senior Adviser for South and Central Asia, said: “Our question is: How can Member States increase accountability for the ongoing abuses faced by vulnerable populations in Afghanistan?”

In the European Union’s address to the committee, their representative stated that all safeguards in Afghanistan’s legal system have been lifted and that “the country is ruled by edicts, while judges, prosecutors and lawyers have been removed from the legal system – as have women, who have been erased from all spheres of society.”

The EU stated it will continue to call for the full and equal enjoyment for women of their human rights, their empowerment, participation and leadership in all spheres of society, as well as for their protection from all forms of violence.

“We are alarmed that, in Afghanistan, persecution on the grounds of gender may be occurring – which is a crime against humanity defined in the Rome Statute, to which Afghanistan is a party.

“While the rest of the world marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Taliban continue to severely restrict the education of girls, violating Article 26 of UDHR and attempting to thwart the full intellectual development of one-half of the Afghan population,” the EU stated.

Johnson’s question, on how to hold the Taliban accountable for ongoing human rights violations, has been raised on numerous occasions in the past few months.

Last month, Roza Otunbayeva, the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan told the UN Security council that a “reframed engagement strategy” is needed and expressed concern over the “lack of positive direction” in current efforts.

“The lack of trust on all sides is a serious impediment to building confidence but the doors to dialogue are still open,” she said.

She said the Taliban should not be recognized under any circumstances.

“The question, however, is whether to continue engaging with the de facto authorities despite these policies, or to cease engaging because of them,” she said. 

“UNAMA’s view is that we must continue to engage and to maintain a dialogue,” she said. 

Special rapporteur reports to General Assembly

The issue of accountability was raised Tuesday on the heels of the United Nations’ special rapporteur for human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennet’s report to the UN General Assembly.

He said in his speech that Afghanistan is confronting a multifaceted array of human rights challenges, necessitating immediate redress.

Bennett highlighted a grim outlook for the country’s human rights landscape, given the Taliban’s repressive policies and practices, a pervasive culture of impunity, an ongoing humanitarian and economic crisis, recent devastating earthquakes, and the looming prospect of massive involuntary returns. He said urgent action is imperative to mitigate further suffering and potential instability not only in Afghanistan but also in the surrounding region.

The Special Rapporteur’s report underscored the severe impact of recent earthquakes on already vulnerable communities in Herat and called on the international community to offer essential assistance. Bennett argued that humanitarian and development efforts should not be viewed as separate, emphasizing the importance of adopting a survivor-centric approach guided by human rights principles.

“In detention centers, a culture of impunity persists for torture and inhumane treatment, as well as for human rights violations against former government officials and military personnel, despite earlier promises to the contrary,” Bennett asserted.

Furthermore, Bennett brought to the General Assembly’s attention the continued detention of Afghans who had exercised their rights to peaceful protest and freedom of expression, including human rights defenders.

The special rapporteur emphasized the imperative to restart the education of girls beyond the sixth grade and women’s tertiary education, challenging the Taliban’s assertion that the suspension is temporary. He suggested that the Taliban’s actions might amount to gender persecution and called for a deeper examination of the emerging concept of ‘gender apartheid,’ characterized by systematic discrimination, oppression, and segregation of women and girls.

Bennett also raised concerns about the quality of education, noting that the Taliban’s policy of narrowing the focus of education to a “madrassa-style” or religious education not only deprives children of a broader range of skills and knowledge but, when combined with unemployment and poverty, could contribute to the growth of radicalized ideologies, heightening the risk of homegrown terrorism and regional and global instability.

While acknowledging the recent release of journalists, including Mortaza Behboudi, Bennett cautioned that these arrests have already had a chilling effect, further constricting Afghanistan’s diminishing civic space.

“Numerous groups of Afghans have expressed their apprehension to me that the international community is moving towards the ‘normalization’ of the situation and sidelining their human rights concerns in favor of broader geopolitical interests,” Bennett stated. “It is my hope that Member States can prove them wrong by firmly advocating for human rights and supporting Afghan women and girls.”