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HRW accuses Taliban of gender-based crimes in Afghanistan

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KABUL – Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a damning report on Friday, accusing the Taliban administration of engineering a gender-based persecution against women and girls in Afghanistan. In the wake of this report, Elizabeth Evenson, the International Justice Director at HRW, urged the international community and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and hold those responsible for gender persecution accountable.

HRW initiated its research in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021. The comprehensive report uncovered a disturbing pattern of gender persecution, encompassing restrictions on freedom of movement, expression, and association, limitations on employment opportunities, constraints on attire, educational bans, as well as arbitrary detentions and violations of the right to liberty.

While men also face certain restrictions and human rights violations, HRW’s findings indicate that women endure significantly more severe infringements on their rights. For instance, job opportunities for women are steadily dwindling, with limited roles mainly in the fields of health and education. A notable example of such restrictions is the December 2022 Taliban directive prohibiting women from working with international and domestic non-governmental organizations (NGOs), while men face comparatively fewer restrictions on employment. Disparities between men and women are also evident in dress codes, educational access, and the freedom to use transportation and public spaces.

HRW asserts that the Taliban’s policies targeting women constitute crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute. To qualify as a crime against humanity under this statute, the acts must be part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population. They must also be carried out with knowledge of the attack and in furtherance of a state policy to commit such acts.

Afghanistan became a party to the Rome Statute in February 2023, granting the ICC jurisdiction over crimes against humanity committed within its borders. In October 2022, the ICC resumed investigations into the situation in Afghanistan. Moreover, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor introduced its Policy on Gender Persecution, focusing its resources on investigating and prosecuting crimes related to sexual and gender-based violence, including gender persecution.

Numerous organizations have recently called for sanctions against Afghanistan due to the Taliban’s human rights violations. In mid-August of this year, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, advocated for the ICC’s prosecution of Taliban leaders for gender persecution. Just two weeks ago, Amnesty International also called for the application of universal jurisdiction against Taliban authorities accused of violating international law.

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