The UN has voted to create a new special rapporteur on Afghanistan to probe violations carried out by the Taliban and other parties to the conflict, amid growing concerns for the erosion of civil rights as the country transitions to an “Islamic emirate”.
The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday passed a resolution brought by the European Union to have a special rapporteur working on the ground in March 2022, supported by UN experts in legal analysis, forensics and women’s rights.
At the 47-member state forum, 28 countries voted in favour, 14 abstained and five voted against. China, Pakistan, Russia, Eritrea and Venezuela opposed the motion.
“This is an essential step to ensure continued monitoring, through a dedicated and independent expert, and to help prevent a further deterioration of the human rights situation in Afghanistan,” said Lotte Knudsen, the EU’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.
“The rights of women and girls are of particular concern to us. The actions of the Taliban directed against women and girls and the violation of their rights is highly worrying.”
Amnesty International has welcomed the decision, saying an independent, international investigative mechanism with powers to document and gather evidence for future prosecutions will be critical to ensure justice.
Last month, 50 organisations had urged UN member states to establish a fact-finding mission or a similar independent investigative mechanism for Afghanistan.
Amnesty International has accused the Taliban of human rights violations that may amount to war crimes, including targeted killings of civilians and surrendered soldiers, and the blockading of humanitarian supplies.
These include the killing of at least 11 members of the Afghan forces belonging to the Hazara ethnic group in the central province of Daykundi, shortly after the group took power in Afghanistan.
“We hope that with this additional support, the mandate will deliver effective monitoring and investigations into the many crimes under international law and human rights violations being committed in Afghanistan,” Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said in a statement.
“With the speed at which the situation on the ground is developing, it’s imperative that a mandate holder is appointed as urgently as possible and provided, in a timely manner, with all necessary resources to conduct their work.”
UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has a mandate from the Council to monitor the situation until March, when the special rapporteur is scheduled to take over.
While no governments have rushed to recognise the Taliban, the necessity of some form of cooperation with the group is widely acknowledged.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi said last month that the Taliban have space for discussion and engagement on human rights issues, including women and minorities rights.
Grandi has called on countries worldwide to engage with the Taliban’s interim government in Afghanistan or risk a “humanitarian crisis” resulting from the collapse of the state.