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Justice & accountability urgently needed to address rights and humanitarian crisis Afghanistan

HRW Statement - Oral update by the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 19, 2021.  © 2021 AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File

We welcome the High Commissioner’s oral update on Afghanistan.

The Taliban takeover of the country has accelerated a human rights crisis in Afghanistan and precipitated a humanitarian catastrophe.

After the collapse of the former Afghan government on August 15, the Taliban have drastically rolled back women’s rights and media freedom—the foremost achievements of the post-2001 reconstruction effort. Despite Taliban promises, the vast majority of secondary schools for girls remain closed, and the authorities have banned coeducation, which prevents many girls and women from receiving higher education. Women have been prohibited from working in most jobs outside of education and healthcare, and the Taliban has, in many provinces, imposed severe restrictions that prevent women aid workers from being able to do their jobs. The Taliban have fired almost all women from leadership posts in the civil service, kept women only in jobs they believe men cannot do such as cleaning women’s toilets, and have dismantled the Ministry for Women’s Affairs and women’s shelters.

Taliban forces have carried out summary executions of scores of former officials and security force personnel. Taliban intelligence officials have detained and beaten journalists, and have made death threats against journalists who have criticized Taliban officials. The authorities require journalists to submit all reports for approval before publication. New guidelines from the Vice and Virtue Ministry dictate the dress of female journalists on television and prohibit soap operas and entertainment programs featuring female actors. Most media outlets have closed and those that remain routinely self-censor to protect themselves. 

A freeze on Afghanistan’s currency reserves by foreign donors, particularly the US, and the loss of foreign aid precipitated an economic collapse, leaving millions of Afghans at risk of famine. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the crisis. Humanitarian aid is critical, but given the crisis, governments, the UN, and international financial institutions need to urgently adjust existing restrictions and sanctions affecting the country’s economy and banking sector.

We look forward to the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan, and encourage you, High Commissioner, to hire the additional experts envisaged by the resolution as soon as possible, so that they are in place and available to support the Special Rapporteur from the inception of the mandate.  We also urge the Human Rights Council to take the steps needed to ensure accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.

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