Colleagues and friends,
The Council has received our report on Afghanistan with a focus on human rights developments since the Taliban seized power on 15 August 2021, A/HRC/49/24.
While the decline in hostilities has seen a sharp decrease in civilian casualties, the human rights situation for many Afghans is of profound concern. From 15 August 2021 to 15 February 2022, UNAMA and OHCHR documented at least 1,153 civilian casualties, including 397 deaths. Several suicide and non-suicide attacks were perpetrated by ISKP against Shi’a Muslims, mostly from the Hazara ethnic group.
Several suicide and non-suicide attacks were perpetrated by ISKP against Shi’a Muslims, mostly from the Hazara ethnic group.
I also note a clear pattern of more than 50 extra-judicial killings of individuals suspected to be linked to the ISKP extremist group, including cases of beheadings in Nangarhar province with bodies left in public places.
I note that on 23 February, the de facto Minister of Interior reportedly released a decree ordering security forces not to open fire on individuals at checkpoints and requiring them to have court orders prior to searching private homes.
The Afghan people face a devastating humanitarian and economic crisis that severely impacts their enjoyment of the full range of economic, social and cultural rights. More than half the population now suffer extreme levels of hunger. An increase in child labour, child marriage and the sale of children has been observed.
Following the Taliban's takeover, international sanctions that previously applied to the Taliban effectively became sanctions on the country's de facto governing authorities. The resulting liquidity crisis contributed to a full-scale economic crash. In addition, non-humanitarian aid to the country – on which almost every essential state function had been dependent prior to the Taliban take-over – was suspended. The Security Council's adoption in December of Resolution 2615, to exempt humanitarian transactions is a welcome first step to enable work that could save millions of lives.
For Afghan women and girls, the directives and actions taken by the de facto authorities have curtailed women’s fundamental rights and freedoms.
Since August 2021, women have largely been excluded from the workforce both as a result of the economic crisis and restrictions imposed by the de facto authorities. In the public sector, exceptions are made in some cases for women working in health-care, primary schools, as well as for a very small number of civil servants. Limitations on freedom of movement negatively impact other aspects of women’s lives, including access to health services.
The de facto authorities have indicated that children of all ages – girls and boys - will return to school in the new solar year that commences later this month. Nation-wide implementation of this commitment at all levels of education is urgent and essential to ensure that all children have equal access to quality education.
The closure of many women’s protection shelters has left women at risk. Justice systems established to deal with cases of gender-based violence are largely non-functional.
Afghan women and girls have called for their rights to fully participate in all aspects of civic, economic, political and public life. I fully endorse these legitimate demands.
Human rights defenders have been killed, arbitrarily detained, or subjected to other attacks and threats since August. The first two months of this year have seen a number of disturbing cases of enforced disappearances and incommunicado detention of civil society activists and protestors. While I am reassured that some have been released, I remain concerned by the progressive erosion of civic space. Dozens of media workers have been subject to threats, arrests, detentions, beatings by agents of the de facto authorities. Restrictions on freedom of expression, compounded by the economic crisis, places all independent media at risk.
The safety and security of all Afghan judges, prosecutors and lawyers from the previous administration, particularly women legal professionals, also continues to be a matter of acute concern.
Despite repeatedly announced guarantees of protection – through a general amnesty - for former Government and security personnel, we have received credible reports of the extra-judicial killings of more than 100 former members of the Afghan National Security and Defence Forces or Government personnel, or their family members, carried out by the de facto authorities or their affiliates since August.
I will be urging the de facto authorities to recognise and respect Afghanistan’s State obligations to protect human rights as they implement their own approaches to measures of governance in the country. This will be fundamental for long term support from the international community. In particular, the full participation, education and empowerment of women and girls is fundamental to Afghanistan’s future peace and development.
My human rights colleagues in Afghanistan will continue to work with the de facto authorities to promote and protect human rights for all Afghan people. I consider it vital to maintain a strong human rights mandate for the UN's presence in the country. I count on Member States' support for human rights work in Afghanistan at this critical time.