Afghanistan, a country that has seen gross violations and abuses of human rights for decades, entered a new chapter on 15 August 2021, when the Taliban captured its capital Kabul, and overthrew the civilian government. With President Ashraf Ghani fleeing hours after the Taliban entered Kabul, the city effectively fell under the rule of the Taliban.
The past 20 years had resulted in some progress on human rights in the country, particularly women’s rights, but the conflict has also seen tens of thousands of civilian deaths and the commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other serious human rights violations and abuses by all parties. The 20-year war is estimated to have taken the lives of at least 47,245 civilians with many more injured, in addition to over 66,000 Afghan national military and police, 51,191 Taliban and other fighters, 72 journalists, 444 aid workers and 3,846 US contractors.
Afghanistan is one of the world’s most impoverished countries and currently faces a crisis of food insufficiency and hunger, due to the combined effects of drought, decades of conflict, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the withdrawal of international aid in the wake of the recent collapse of the government.
Since their takeover on 15 August, the Taliban promised in several press conferences and statements that they would assure a general amnesty for all previous government workers, respect for women’s rights in accordance with their interpretation of Sharia law, and that journalists would be protected.
Contrary to this reassurance, the Taliban continued to crackdown on journalists and tortured them for reporting on protests in the country. Female protestors took to the streets demanding equality and freedom in Nimroz, Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and other cities and provinces in Afghanistan despite violent crackdowns on protestors on 2 and 6 September in Mazar-e-Sharif.
Amnesty International is calling on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to take decisive action to establish a robust independent investigative mechanism to monitor and report on human rights abuses committed in violation of international human rights law, and to contribute to accountability for crimes under international law. Human rights defenders, journalists, and others who are targeted for their work must be evacuated and given safe passage if they wish to leave Afghanistan; and women and girls, and ethnic and religious minorities who are targeted because of their gender, ethnic, and religious identity, must be guaranteed protection. All those who wish to leave Afghanistan must be assured the right to seek asylum. At the same time, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court must receive assistance from the international community to immediately recommence its investigations into crimes under international law committed in Afghanistan.