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Calls for Justice accountability and effective response to ongoing violations

Alliance for Human Rights in Afghanistan – Joint statement – Afghanistan: call for Justice

accountability and effective response to ongoing violations and gender persecution

Two years after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, we strongly condemn

ongoing and escalating gross human rights violations by the Taliban especially against women and

girls  and  the  lack  of  an  effective  response  from  the  international  community,  10  international

human rights organizations stated today.

Over the past two years, the Taliban have imposed increasingly abusive policies especially against

women and girls and religious and ethnic minorities that clearly violate Afghanistan’s obligations

under  international  human  rights  law.  Policies  that  ban  and  restrict  women  and  girls  from

education, work and other livelihood opportunities, free movement and access to public spaces

and services have been widely condemned. In their joint report to the United Nations (UN) Human

Rights Council, published in June 2023, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation

in Afghanistan and the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls stated that

the Taliban treatment of women and girls “may amount to gender persecution – a crime against

humanity – and be characterised as gender apartheid”.

Activists, especially women, protesting Taliban policies from within Afghanistan face some of the

greatest risks for raising their voices and yet speak the loudest. They have persisted, despite the

Taliban responding by inflicting on them physical violence, raids, arbitrary arrests and detention,

torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, enforced disappearance, and attacks on

their family members.

As international attention  to the crisis fades,  and human rights violations by Taliban  become

normalized in the eyes of the international community, our organizations continue to record crimes

under international law and other serious human rights violations..  We are also gravely concerned

for the safety of human rights defenders in Taliban custody. Prominent examples—emblematic of

many  more—are  the  cases  of  education  rights  defender  Matiullah  Wesa,  who  was  arbitrarily

arrested and detained on 27 March 2023 and Rasool Parsi, an university lecturer, Islamic scholar

and civil society activist, who remains imprisoned since 6 March 2023. Internal protection and legal

safeguards for those at risk are practically non-existent; Taliban actions have disregarded existing

legal frameworks or placed them in an ambiguous non-functioning state.

While many human rights defenders at risk have been compelled to leave Afghanistan over the

past two years, many more remain behind, trapped and in hiding, with little recourse for safety.

Those who have crossed borders into neighbouring countries lack durable solutions, are at risk of

being expelled, are often in financial crises and face a credible risk of persecution if returned to

Afghanistan.  Yet,  they  cannot  rebuild  their  lives  in  their  host  country  and  often  lack  any

resettlement prospects outside the region. In their current host countries—often Iran, Turkey and

Pakistan—they suffer threats, including of arrest, violence, extortion, deportation, and lack access

to essential services, including health care and education.

The extremely difficult situation for those inside Afghanistan is compounded by the humanitarian

crisis, with with 97% of the population living in poverty, up from 47% in 2020. According to UN

figures,  28.8  million  people,  more  than  half  of  the  country’s  population,  needs  humanitarian

assistance to survive while 3.2 million children and 800,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women

are malnourished. While broad cuts to aid that primarily harm people living in Afghanistan rather

than the Taliban have not helped, the Taliban’s ban on women humanitarian staff from working in

non governmental organizations and the UN has denied effective support to those who are most in

need,  particularly  women-headed  households.  According  to  UN Office  for  the  Coordination  of

Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)  , “[t]he series of restrictions levied on women is exacerbating existing

vulnerabilities faced by women and girls as well as women-headed households.” OCHA found that

48% of women-headed households have a poor Food Consumption Score (FCS) compared to

39% of male-headed households.

The Taliban should be pressured to end violations and repression and be held accountable for their

alleged  crimes  under  international  law,  including  investigation  of  whether the  crime  against

humanity  of  gender  persecution against  women  and  girls has been committed.  The  voices of

people in Afghanistan and those who have been forced to leave the country must be heard in their

calls  for  an  end  to  the  grave  rights  violations  and  for  justice  and  redress.  To  this  effect,  the

International  Criminal  Court  prosecutor  should  ensure  that  his  office’s investigation  and  any

resulting prosecutions address all patterns of underlying criminality by all parties to armed conflicts

in Afghanistan, including crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban against women and children, in

line  with  the  court’s  Policy  on  the  Crime  of  Gender  Persecution  and  Policy  on  Children.

Additionally,  judicial  authorities  in  third  states  should explore  pursuing  criminal  cases  against

individuals credibly implicated in serious crimes based on the principle of universal jurisdiction in

accordance with national laws.

The international community should be more consistent and effective in their response to Taliban

violations,  including  pushing  urgently  for  an  end  to  violent  reprisals  and  the  release  of  those

currently  held  arbitrarily  in  Taliban  detention.  The  international  community  should  also  heed

demands for a more robust accountability mechanism for investigation and evidence collection

regarding human rights violations and renewing and strengthening the mandate of the Special

Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan with additional resources to maintain

scrutiny  on  the  human  rights  situation  in  Afghanistan.  For  those  Afghans  in  transit  or  in

neighbouring  countries,  governments  should  do  more  to  protect  them,  including  ending

deportations  and expanding  and  accelerating  programs to resettle  vulnerable  Afghans to  third

countries.

Finally, the Taliban, as de-facto authorities, are still responsible for the international treaties that

Afghanistan has ratified and therefore are responsible for fulfilling the obligations emanating from

the  international  human  rights  and  humanitarian  treaties  to  which  Afghanistan  is  a  party.  The

international community should unanimously and firmly hold its position that there is only one

outcome acceptable: there must  be justice,  accountability, and reparation for  all grave human

rights violations in Afghanistan.

Signed by

 Amnesty International

 FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights

 Freedom House

 Freedom Now

 Front Line Defenders

 Human Rights Watch

 MADRE

 Urgent Action Fund – Asia & Pacific

 Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

 World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Index: ASA 11/7110/2023

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