STORY: HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL SPECIAL SESSION ON AFGHANISTAN
SOURCE: UNTV CH
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 24 August 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
Afghanistan: women’s rights are ‘red line’, UN rights chief tells States
UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet led calls on Tuesday for Afghanistan’s new Taliban leaders to respect the rights of all Afghans, with the treatment of women and girls “a fundamental red line” that should not be crossed.
Speaking at the opening of an emergency session at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, a little over a week since the Taliban swept to power, Ms. Bachelet reminded Member States of credible reports of violations of international humanitarian law against civilians in areas under their control.
These reports made it especially important that the Human Rights Council worked in unison to prevent further abuses, the High Commissioner said, before urging Member States to establish a dedicated mechanism to monitor the fast-evolving situation in Afghanistan and “in particular... the Taliban's implementation of its promises”.
Ms. Bachelet added that “a fundamental red line will be the Taliban's treatment of women and girls, and respect for their rights to liberty, freedom of movement, education, self-expression and employment, guided by international human rights norms. In particular, ensuring access to quality secondary education for girls will be an essential indicator of commitment to human rights.”
Among the reported violations received by her office, the UN rights chief cited summary executions of civilians and members of the Afghan national security forces, recruitment of child soldiers and repression of peaceful protest and expressions of dissent.
Echoing those concerns ahead of a vote on a draft resolution calling for investigations and accountability for rights abuses, Afghanistan’s Ambassador, Nasir Ahmad Andisha, described the prevailing sense of apprehension in the country, with “millions fearing for their lives”.
Speaking in person at the forum, the Afghan delegate warned that a humanitarian crisis “is unfolding as we speak. The people of Afghanistan in particular, the thousands of human rights defenders, journalists, academics, professionals, civil society members and former security personnel who were the backbone - and we hope still will be - of a contemporary and democratic society and whose lives and livelihoods are at risk.”
In a call for the Council’s 47 Member States not to ignore what was happening in his country, the Afghanistan representative reminded them that the situation on the ground remained “uncertain and dire”.
What was needed was serious attention from the international community, “responsibility and accountability”, he added. “We witness a high number of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses which are documented and most of those gruesome videos are available online. While some Taliban were and are still talking differently, restrictions and violations are already taking place as we speak.”
Describing the dangers faced by many in the Taliban-controlled country, Anita Ramasastry, Chair of the Coordination Committee of UN Special Procedures, noted that women and girls “face particular risks. Large numbers of internally displaced persons are also at risk. Many of these persons are in hiding as the Taliban continues to search homes door-to-door, and there are serious concerns that such information gathering may led to them being targeted for reprisals. Searches, arrests, harassment, and intimidation, as well as seizures of property and reprisals are already being reported.”
Warning that Afghanistan was now “in its worst moment” and in need of the support of the international community like never before, Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission rounded on the emergency session’s draft resolution as a “travesty” that failed to far enough to defend those at risk in the country.
“We have documented that the Taliban advances came with summary executions, disappearances, restrictions on women, media and cultural life. This is not ancient history. This is earlier this month and this is today,” she said.
“Women in Afghanistan are being turned down from their offices by the Taliban, universities have been asked to discuss gender segregation possibilities, women are required to be accompanied by male members of their family in public, media are not broadcasting music, journalists and activists are in hiding or in flee (sic), former members of the Afghan National Security Forces are scared of the worst, the summary executions, house-to-house searches and information gathering has led to widespread fear.”
For the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Pakistan's Ambassador Ambassador Khalil Hashmi, reiterated the OIC’s commitment “to supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process to reach an inclusive political settlement. The OIC underscores the imperative of active engagement by the international community along political, humanitarian, human rights and development tracks.”
For the United States, Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, insisted that the protection of “civilians, including women and girls, academics, journalists, human rights defenders, and members of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups, must remain paramount. We condemn attacks on them and those seeking to aid them, including UN staff and humanitarian aid providers. Such attacks must stop immediately, and all Afghan nationals and foreign nationals who wish to depart must be allowed to do so safely.”