OHCHR chief warns human rights ‘in a state of collapse’ in Afghanistan


Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau

UNITED NATIONS, 13th Sept. UN rights chief Volker Türk warned on Tuesday that the “shocking” and “cruel” oppression of Afghan women and girls by the Taliban against the backdrop of a severe humanitarian crisis has put the country’s future in jeopardy.

The new report by the OHCHR documented that “Human rights in Afghanistan are in a state of collapse,” he told the Human Rights Council, before sounding the alarm over ongoing reports of extrajudicial killings, torture and ill-treatment and arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as serious violations against former Government officials”.

He said “Compounding all of this is a deeply troubling lack of accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations”.

Mr. Turk highlighted the “devastating precedent” set by Afghanistan as the only country in the world where women and girls are denied access to secondary and higher education.

He underscored the “long list of misogynistic restrictions” confining the country’s women “to the four walls of their homes”, before asking: “What can possibly come next?”

The human rights chief insisted that any prospect of a stable, prosperous Afghanistan rests on the participation of men and women.

“Denying women and girls’ rights to participate in daily and public life not only denies them their human rights, it denies Afghanistan the benefit of the contributions they have to offer,” he said.

Mr. Türk said that the suspension of the Afghan constitution and of laws protecting women from violence or guaranteeing media freedom, as well as the dissolution of the country’s Independent Human Rights Commission, were elements of the “systematic erosion of the institutions that once provided some protection for human rights”.

He called on the de facto authorities to “change course” and bring Afghanistan back to the international fold with full respect for its international human rights obligations.

Mr. Turk stressed that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan will continue to monitor and report on the situation, as well as “raise individual cases and urge compliance with international law by the de facto authorities” to the greatest extent possible.

Mr. Türk paid tribute to the work of his human rights colleagues on the ground, especially Afghan female staff.

He exhorted the international community not to “turn its back on Afghanistan” at a time when rights were being eroded and two-thirds of the population were in need of aid, while humanitarian operations were hindered by the ban on women working for the UN and NGOs.

Mr. Türk’s comments came a day after the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, delivered a sombre update to the Council.

Mr. Bennett reiterated that Afghans living abroad “say they feel ‘betrayed’ by the international community.

He said “They are calling for concrete action and some have even started a hunger strike “calling for recognition of gender apartheid”.

Mr. Bennett had said that since systematic and institutionalized discrimination against women and girls was at the heart of Taliban ideology and rule, Afghanistan’s de facto authorities “may be responsible for gender apartheid” which, although “not yet an explicit international crime”, required “further study”.

He briefed the Council on Monday on the “collapse of civic space” and “absence of rule of law” since the Taliban takeover, the long-term impacts on children’s development and mental health, and the repression and lack of representation of minorities such as Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and Turkmen.

“I’m concerned about the effect [that the] strong sense of discrimination and exclusion held by large parts of the population may have on the stability of Afghanistan,” he added.

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