KABUL – In a significant development at the UN General Assembly, a senior US diplomat, David Johnson, has called for the Taliban to be held accountable for their continued human rights violations in Afghanistan. Johnson, who serves as Washington’s Senior Adviser for South and Central Asia, made these remarks during the Third Committee Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan.
Highlighting the gravity of the situation, Johnson posed a critical question to the international community: “How can Member States increase accountability for the ongoing abuses faced by vulnerable populations in Afghanistan?”
The European Union (EU) echoed these concerns in their address to the committee. The EU representative noted that Afghanistan’s legal safeguards have been dismantled, resulting in the country being governed by edicts. This has also led to the removal of judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and the marginalization of women in all aspects of society.
The EU reaffirmed its commitment to advocating for the full and equal enjoyment of human rights for women, their empowerment, participation, and protection from violence. It raised alarm over potential gender-based persecution, emphasizing that such actions could constitute a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute.
Despite the rest of the world celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Taliban continues to severely restrict the education of girls, violating Article 26 of the UDHR.
Johnson’s call for holding the Taliban accountable is not new. Roza Otunbayeva, the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, also expressed the need for a “reframed engagement strategy” and highlighted the lack of positive direction in current efforts. She stressed the importance of maintaining a dialogue with the de facto authorities.
The issue of accountability gained prominence following the report presented by the United Nations’ special rapporteur for human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennet, to the UN General Assembly. Bennet’s report painted a grim picture of Afghanistan’s human rights landscape, citing the Taliban’s repressive policies, a culture of impunity, an ongoing humanitarian and economic crisis, recent earthquakes, and the potential for massive involuntary returns.
The report called for urgent action to alleviate the suffering and prevent instability in Afghanistan and the surrounding region. Bennet underscored the impact of recent earthquakes on vulnerable communities and urged the international community to provide essential assistance.
In detention centers, a culture of impunity persisted for torture, inhumane treatment, and human rights violations against former government officials and military personnel. Bennet also raised concerns about the continued detention of Afghans exercising their rights to peaceful protest and freedom of expression.
The report emphasized the necessity to restart the education of girls and women beyond the sixth grade, challenging the Taliban’s assertion that the suspension is temporary. It called for a deeper examination of the emerging concept of ‘gender apartheid.’
Bennet also expressed concerns about the quality of education, noting that the Taliban’s focus on religious education could contribute to radicalized ideologies and heightened risks of homegrown terrorism.
While acknowledging the recent release of journalists, the report cautioned that these arrests have had a chilling effect on Afghanistan’s civic space. It urged Member States to advocate for human rights and support Afghan women and girls.
These developments underscore the pressing need for international attention and action to address the human rights situation in Afghanistan and hold the Taliban accountable for their actions.