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Afghan police inspect the site of a suicide attack in Parwan, Afghanistan, September 17, 2019.  © 2019 AP Photo

(New York) – Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan should immediately cease attacks on political rallies and other election-related activities, Human Rights Watch said today. In recent weeks, Taliban attacks seemingly aimed at deterring people from participating in the presidential election scheduled for September 28, 2019 have killed and injured scores of civilians.

The September 17 Taliban suicide attack on a campaign rally in Parwan, north of Kabul, killed at least 26 civilians and injured more than 42. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, wrongly calling the campaign rally a “military target.”

“Taliban attacks on political rallies and other election events are part of an apparent campaign to sow fear, undermine the electoral process, and deny Afghans the right to participate in political life,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Taliban’s claim of responsibility is essentially an admission of culpability for a war crime.

The recent attacks are the latest in a long string of attacks in Afghanistan in which Taliban forces have violated the laws of war by targeting civilians. A number of recent Taliban attacks on military targets have been unlawfully indiscriminate or caused disproportionate loss of civilian life.

A second suicide attack on September 17 near the Afghan Defense Ministry in Kabul killed 22 civilians and wounded 38, according to media reports. A September 5 suicide bomb attack in Kabul, which killed a soldier from the US and another from Romania, killed at least 10 civilians.

The Taliban announced on August 6 that they would disrupt the elections by targeting rallies and other gatherings. The United Nations condemned the announcement, saying “the electoral process in Afghanistan is a civilian undertaking … all citizens have the right to be free from fear, intimidation and violence at all stages of an elections process.”

During the October 2018 parliamentary elections, the Taliban carried out what UNAMA, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, called an “organized campaign” of violence targeting candidates, electoral staff, and voters.

“Targeting election rallies not only shows the Taliban’s disregard for civilian life, but their contempt for democratic processes,” Gossman said. 

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