Accountability in Afghanistan remains elusive, UN’s Richard Bennett says

UN Special Rapporteur Richard Bennett, marking two years since his appointment to monitor human rights situation in Afghanistan, urged the Taliban to meet their international obligations and noted that accountability remains elusive.

“Two years have passed since I was appointed as the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. It’s a moment to take stock, to note what has been achieved and to ask what can be done differently and better to improve the human rights of all Afghans,” Bennett said.

Bennett highlighted ongoing human rights violations that continue with impunity. “While my team and I have been able to document, report on, and advocate, violations continue to be perpetrated with impunity, and accountability remains elusive,” he added.

He emphasized that human rights are indispensable for achieving lasting peace and countering inequality and violence. “I’ve witnessed the denial of women’s and girls’ rights once again becoming a signature of the Taliban’s policies, as it was in the 1990s,” Bennett stated. “Even basic freedoms are trampled upon, peaceful dissent is stifled, and violence is used to control and instill fear in the population.”

Bennett also spoke about the severe economic hardships facing millions of Afghans, exacerbated by a largely paralyzed banking system and frozen financial assets. “We documented public executions and corporal punishments,” he said.

He noted that they have engaged with thousands of brave Afghans: women, men, children, victims, and survivors. “Families are taking desperate measures to survive,” he said, highlighting that child marriage is being used to cover debts or buy food for other children in the family.

“From complex land disputes to the persecution faced by the LGBTQ+ community and the struggles of persons with disabilities, the human rights landscape remains fraught,” Bennett said.

The Afghan people, he noted, yearn for peace and need to find common ground that embraces their diversity.

“As we mark the second anniversary of my term as special rapporteur, I urge the Taliban to meet their international human rights obligations and the international community to steadfastly insist on significant improvements in human rights by the Taliban,” he said.

Bennett concluded by saying human rights should not just be on the political agenda for Afghanistan but must become the agenda itself. “Let’s stand together in solidarity with the Afghan people. We will be judged by our actions.”