Taliban’s treatment of women a ‘red line’: UN rights chief

Michelle Bachelet urged the Geneva forum to set up a mechanism to closely monitor Taliban actions.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said there are grave fears for women, journalists and civil society members [Reuters]
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said there are grave fears for women, journalists and civil society members [Reuters]

The top UN human rights official says she has received credible reports of serious violations committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, including “summary executions” of civilians and restrictions on women.

Michelle Bachelet gave no details of executions in her speech to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, but urged the Geneva forum to set up a mechanism to closely monitor Taliban actions.

The Taliban treatment of women would be “a fundamental red line”, she said.

“There are grave fears for women, for journalists and for the new generation of civil society leaders who have emerged in the past years,” Bachelet told the forum’s emergency session, held at the request of Pakistan and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic and religious minorities are also at risk of violence and repression, given previous patterns of serious violations under Taliban rule and reports of killings and targeted attacks in recent months,” she said.

“In particular, ensuring access to quality secondary education for girls will be an essential indicator of commitment to human rights.”

Nasir Ahmad Andisha, a senior Afghan diplomat from the deposed government, called for accountability for Taliban actions, describing an “uncertain and dire” situation where millions of people fear for their lives.

Shaharzad Akbar, chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said the international community is already “failing them”.

“You have the chance to redeem yourselves, please take it.”

“Please ensure the session has a credible and strong outcome. Please do not leave this to tomorrow or the next month … on our worst moments we call on you to do better,” she added.

Burqa-clad Afghan women at a market in Kabul following the Taliban’s takeover [Hoshang Hashimi/AFP]

Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, said the Human Rights Council is expected to adopt a resolution at the end of the meeting.

“Some of the delegates have been pushing for a fact-finding mission, a UN fact-finding mission, which would mean that UN workers would be deployed in Afghanistan to document any abuses and hold those responsible accountable,” Buttler said.

“It’s something that international organisations including Human Rights Watch have been calling for over the past few days but we will have to wait and see whether or not that is part of the final resolution.”

‘We are disappointed’

Tuesday’s meeting comes as US troops lead increasingly desperate efforts to airlift thousands of people out of Kabul after the Taliban warned evacuations could continue for only one more week.

Crowds continue to mass outside the airport, with many Afghans terrified of facing life under the Taliban. The group have repeatedly promised a different kind of rule to their brutal regime of the 1990s that saw women confined to their homes, most entertainment banned, and punishments including stonings and public executions.

But their rebranding is being treated with scepticism. Independent UN human rights experts, in a joint statement, said many people were in hiding fearing reprisals as “the Taliban continues to search homes door-to-door”.

“Searches, arrests, harassment and intimidation, as well as seizures of property and reprisals, are already being reported,” they said.

The council will consider a draft resolution, submitted by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC, that voices concern at reports of violations.

But it does not mention the Taliban by name, nor would it set up a fact-finding mission to probe them.

Instead, it calls on Bachelet to report back to the forum at its March 2022 session and urges all parties to respect human rights law including “the full and meaningful participation of women” and of minorities.

“We were hoping for a stronger text, it is extremely minimalist and we are disappointed,” a Western diplomat told Reuters as heated negotiations continued.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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