Afghanistan: UN expert castigates Taliban policy based on “a society ruled by fear”

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According to the new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in this country, Richard Bennett, Kabul faces serious human rights challenges.

He thus expressed alarm that many policies of the de facto authorities and their desire for absolute control have a cumulative effect on a wide range of human rights and create “a society ruled by fear”.

“The progressive disappearance of women from public life is particularly worrying”, said the UN expert, at the end of an 11-day visit to Afghanistan – the first mission since the creation of the mandate by the Human Rights Council of the UN man.

Measures corresponding to the “model of absolute gender segregation”

He denounced all these measures which aim to make “women invisible in society”. These include suspension of secondary education for girls, severe barriers to employment, lack of opportunities to participate in political and public life.

He also criticized such limits on the freedoms of movement, association and expression, directives on the “mahram” (male guardian of the family), the imposition of a strict form of hijab and firm advice to remain at home. All of these measures “fit the model of absolute gender segregation,” Bennett said.

“The Taliban are at a crossroads. Either the society becomes more stable and a place where every Afghan enjoys freedom and human rights, or it becomes more and more restrictive,” he argued.

To avoid the risk of “instability and additional suffering in Afghanistan”, he recommends changing certain restrictive measures relating to “the urgent opening of secondary schools for girls and the establishment of an inclusive administration which represents truly every segment of Afghan society”.

Furthermore, the independent expert is also concerned about allegations, which need to be verified, that civilians have been exposed to violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. These include arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, torture and forced displacement in Panjshir and other northern provinces, which have recently been the scene of clashes between de facto security forces and fighters affiliated with the National Resistance Front.

Bridging the gap between their words and their deeds of the Taliban

The expert thus reported a high number of reports of intimidation, harassment, attacks, arrests. In some cases, there are reports of killings or disappearances of journalists, prosecutors and judges for carrying out their duties, as well as members of civil society for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and association, is very worrying,” Bennett said.

More broadly, “Afghanistan faces a plethora of human rights challenges that have a severe impact on the population”. However, “the de facto authorities have failed to recognize the scale and gravity of the abuses committed – many of them in their name – and their responsibility to remedy them and protect the entire population”.

Faced with this bleak experience during his mission to the country, Mr. Bennett urged the authorities to recognize the human rights challenges they face and close the gap between their words and their deeds.

Richard Bennett (New Zealand) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan by the United Nations Human Rights Council on April 1st. He officially took office on May 1, 2022. His first report will be presented at the September session of the Human Rights Council.

NOTE

The Independent Experts are part of what is referred to as the “special procedures” of the Human Rights Council. The Special Procedures, the most important body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general term applied to the Council’s independent investigation and monitoring mechanisms that address specific situations countries or thematic issues anywhere in the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and they do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of governments and organizations and they exercise their functions in an independent capacity.

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