UN experts demand immediate release of women human rights defenders held by Taliban

In a resolute call for justice, a group of United Nations experts, led by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Bennett, is demanding the immediate release of women human rights defenders Neda Parwan and Zholia Parsi, who have been held in Taliban custody for over a month.

Both Parwan and Parsi are associated with the Women’s Spontaneous Movement, and their detention has raised significant concerns. The experts point out that no reasons have been provided for their arrests, echoing similar cases where individuals exercising their fundamental right to engage in peaceful protests have faced arbitrary detention.

“The urgent release of Ms. Parwan and Ms. Parsi, along with their family members, from detention is a pressing matter. After more than a month in custody, we are increasingly concerned about their physical and mental well-being,” the experts stressed.

They underscore the fundamental importance of upholding the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, enshrined in international human rights law. The experts also warn against depriving individuals of their liberty for merely expressing dissenting views and exercising their legitimate rights, with women human rights defenders being particularly vulnerable to such targeting.

The experts noted that the Taliban appears to be intensifying its restrictions on civic space, notably by silencing the voices of women and girls, creating a chilling effect on the population.

“We urge the de facto authorities to demonstrate respect for freedom of expression, freedoms of movement and association, including the right to engage in peaceful protest, aligning with Afghanistan’s international obligations under human rights instruments ratified by the State,” the experts emphasized.

Despite a month in custody, Neda Parwan and Zholia Parsi, along with their family members, have not been charged with any crime or brought before a court. They have also been denied access to legal representation.

The experts welcomed the recent release of Mortaza Behboudi, an Afghan-French journalist, and Matiullah Wesa, the founder of the civil society organization Pen Path, a staunch advocate for the right to education.

“We urge the de facto authorities to also release the women rights defenders and their family members without further delay, as there is no justification for their detention,” the experts declared.