HRC Press conference of the UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan - 01 March 2024
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HRC - Press conference of the UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan - 01 March 2024

Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan (period September 2023 to January 2024)

Speaker:  Richard Bennett, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan

Good afternoon, everyone.
And welcome to this press conference today we have with us Mr Richard Bennett,
who is a special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan.
We will be
begin with opening remarks from the special rapporteur,
after which we will open the floor to questions.
Mr. Bennett, you have the floor.
Good afternoon.
Thank you very much, Maya. Good afternoon, everyone. As you may be aware,
presented my latest report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan
to the Council yesterday afternoon.
It sets out
a stark reality
that the human rights situation under the Taliban
continues to deteriorate.
This crisis needs to remain
in the spotlight
before I go any further and I'll try to keep my remarks
pretty brief.
I'd just like to have a word or two
about human rights.
Human rights are universal and indivisible.
It's critical that they are
seen as part of the solution. Going forward,
we must emphasise convergence over division
in Afghanistan.
after 45 years
and more of conflict and occupation,
Afghanistan is a grievously
damaged society
that also displays remarkable resilience.
And in a
continuing polarised environment,
finding common ground is desperately needed
today in Afghanistan,
women and girls don't enjoy the right to education above Grade six.
They're being erased from public life.
mandatory clothing
regulations are leading
to arbitrary arrest and detention.
This leads to concerns about
gender persecution and even discussions about the
characterised. As as gender apartheid,
we have documented
public executions and corporal punishments recently.
Peaceful descent is stifled.
Violence and the threat of violence
are used with impunity to control and instil fear
in the population.
Those responsible for this
must be held to account.
There is also
a desperate humanitarian and economic crisis.
This is not the moment
to forget Afghanistan in any sense.
For the international community.
It's of the
utmost importance to steadfastly insist
that normalisation
and integration of Afghanistan
back into the
international community
will require
significant improvements
in human rights from the Taliban,
including the situation
of women and girls.
Thank you.
Thank you, Mr Bennett.
The special rapporteur will now take questions.
We'll begin with the questions in the room,
and then we'll move on to those of you online.
good afternoon, Special
Bennett. Um, a question about the Taliban, actually, and how one can work with them.
obviously you have to engage, uh, with them on on human rights.
But how do you do so without,
as the report says, normalising
the authority? How How do you strike that balance? Thank you.
Sorry. I don't think it's difficult to engage without normalising when one,
is dealing with human rights.
Human rights advocacy
is often about
dealing with difficult situations and difficult actors. Reluctant actors.
Um, but there are ways to do it,
and what I consider is that
every conversation by the international community, be it un agencies
or states,
should include human rights
and the situation of women in
the agenda. No matter what the rest of the conversation is about.
It might be about the economy or about agriculture
or about technology, but it needs to
include human rights and every face to face meeting
should. If it's a delegation, it should be a delegation that includes women.
And those women
should be speaking directly to the Taliban
the idea of a,
uh AAA normal
society is that it includes both genders or all genders. In fact,
thank you.
And if you could please remember to state your
name and your media outlet before the question.
Wait, I appreciate,
Um, any other questions in the room?
No. So we'll move on to, uh, those online, Uh, we can start with, uh, Yuri from RV.
Yes. Thank you for taking my question.
This is hard to speak about Afghanistan
without speaking about politics and especially geopolitics.
So, Mister Bennett, you took your mandate a
year after the
chaotic departure of American forces from Afghanistan
after 20 years of occupation.
do you feel today that anything has been seriously done during
this occupation to improve the human rights situation in the country?
Or do you feel that on the contrary, things have only gotten worse?
And did the hasty dispatcher of Western troops have a
direct impact on the situation that you are describing today?
Who should be considered responsible for what is happening now? Thank you.
Thanks for your question, Yuri.
Yes, I do.
My assessment is that human rights did improve during the 20 years of the Republic.
However, the situation
far from perfect.
And we all know that
I was there
from 2003.
On and off, right up until 2021.
Um, with gaps.
I wasn't there the whole time
ask Afghan women,
Did they a
gun? Children?
Did they observe any
improvements in their human rights du during that period?
When I ask them,
they tell me that they do.
They did.
But there were problems.
It was not a golden era.
There were serious problems with civilian casualties
committed by all parties to the conflict.
There were also problems
due to corruption
and due to narcotics and due to mismanagement.
there was torture
and there was arbitrary detention from time to time.
But there was a constitution.
There were elections, perhaps imperfect.
There were institutions like a national human rights institution,
which in my view, did excellent work.
So yes,
there were improvements. It's false to claim that there were none in my view.
But, you know, ask others, Ask the Afghans who lived through that.
The second part of your question.
I have
continually supported accountability mechanisms, accountability, processes.
But you'll note
that when I've spoken about that,
I have also spoken about
those processes needing to apply
not only to the last 2.5 years since August 2021
but further back as well
and to involve all parties to a conflict in which human rights
were violated.
that is something I understand that others, including the High Commissioner,
have been asked to look at and we will be reporting on
in the September session this year
on my part,
I will be reporting again in June,
Uh, on the
devastating, systematic
and widespread discrimination against women and girls.
And part of that report will
focus on
necessary accountability mechanisms
as well as focusing on
what needs to be done to bring about change so that the that half of the population
gets back on the path to equality. It was never there.
It was part of the way there.
There has been a definite setback,
and this needs to be turned around. Thank you.
Thank you.
Uh, do we have other questions?
yes. Uh,
riaad, but, uh, online,
please. Go ahead.
Hi. My name's Riaz A.
But I'm the bureau chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Associated Press.
I'm currently in Kabul. And
what you were saying about
human rights and normalisation
in my conversations with the Taliban,
they don't feel like they are doing anything wrong with regards to human rights.
they believe that their
interpretation of Sharia law
necessitates these decrees on education, segregation
and wardrobe.
senior members of the Taliban, including the supreme leader,
have stated over and over that
they wish to see the imposition of Sharia in every aspect
of Afghan life and every element of Afghan society. So
when they are coming from that position and you are coming from your position,
where is the common ground for discussion and conversation
and thanks
and thanks for joining from
Kabul on a very pertinent question. And that's why
began my remarks by
or mentioning the polarised environment and
how we need to strive to find common ground.
I'm aware of
position of the Taliban on those matters, but I would also add
that they have not.
Res resulted from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
or the seven out of nine major human rights treaties that Afghanistan, as a state,
has ratified over the years
they are outliers in those views,
particularly in the view about education of girls and women.
There are no other states
in the world
who take the same position,
and that includes
majority Muslim states as well.
Several such states
took the floor yesterday,
as they have in previous meetings of the Human Rights Council
as well as the General Assembly that I've
attended and I understand also in the Security Council
and have
the policies against women and girls.
The secretary general has done the same just in Doha last week
when he was meeting with
different countries special envoys.
So they're very much isolated
on this point.
I think it will take time.
But I think it's also
for all stakeholders,
especially members of the international community,
to continue to insist
human rights, and particularly the rights of women and girls,
are respected
because there's also
a signal that's given
more broadly.
Uh, if
states and others
to consider that this is inevitable
and begin to normalise what is
utterly unacceptable situation
when half the population
have basically lost
all their human rights?
Thank you.
Thank you. Mr. Bennett. Uh, we have a follow up question from Yuri.
Yes, thanks. This is just a follow up on what the special reporter said.
Does that mean that you are discussing
with the governments of the countries involved in
the occupation to determine the responsibilities during
the murders of civilians that have been documented
during the occupation. Are you talking with them?
And what are they saying about that? Thank you.
My mandate is
and on the people of Afghanistan.
that said,
I have been consistently saying
in public situations, including yesterday and today,
that I
commend those countries
who are beginning
to take serious measures
assess their
their contribution or their impact in Afghanistan,
accountability measures
for violations for which they may have been responsible.
I believe that there should be no
double standards, there should be no selective justice
and that there ought to be a raft of accountability measures
that should include policy changes,
disciplinary measures, including perhaps, criminal justice and other measures
not excluding reparations
to the people of Afghanistan.
This issue
requires much more discussion.
I think and I think there is progress in
some places, but it should not
in any way
current violators
in Afghanistan, including the Taliban,
and is
off the hook.
They must also be held accountable for violations
in the past
and in the present.
Thank you.
Thank you, Mr Bennett. Uh, we have two hands up online.
I'll give the floor to Mr Haberman, followed by,
uh, beza donmez
from an
adult. Thank you.
Uh, yes. Good afternoon. Uh, my name is Janda, Koman
Arai for,
uh, German media. I'm based here in in Geneva at the Palais de N.
Um, I would like to ask you about the prospects for the, uh, women in, um,
have you any
sort of hope that they
the the girls and the women may be liberated from this tyranny?
Uh, anytime soon.
I don't
I think there will be a
revolutionary change any time soon
to be frank, but I do have hope,
uh, partly because of the
resilience and strength
of Afghan women and also,
uh uh, some of some afg Afghan men as well
and we are seeing them
through that resilience, finding
some ways to live their lives,
to be able to
to work or to continue to
find some forms of education.
I hope that this resilience continues, and I also note
that there are very small pockets of hope
with the approval of the Taliban,
including in business, private sector, there seems to be a little more openness.
And also, for example,
in the health sector.
Thank you. We'll take the next question.
Um, thank you. Um, my question will be about the recent public executions,
which are, uh, raising concerns.
There was, like, three last week, and I think the total was around five.
I wanted to to ask
the normal executions continue, but
we are now talking about public executions and how we can stop these executions.
the other thing, the other concerning thing was there were flogging incidents,
including a woman and a 12 year old Children
What would you say about that? And how we can end these
incidents? Thank you.
Thank you.
Together with other
independent experts at the UN, we have
for quite some time now condemned public executions
and also public flogging or flogging corporal punishment of any type
as a violation of human rights.
A violation certainly of the Convention on Civil and Political Rights
and also the Convention Against Torture.
just a couple of days ago,
the High Commissioner also
issued a statement on this and called for a moratorium on
the death penalty in
We are noting this trend it
is not did not start recently. In fact,
the flogging in particular
has been recorded by my team for at least a year. More than a year now,
many different instances in many parts of the country,
uh, we have
also observing, I believe,
an uptick in public executions.
And we condemn this.
It really must stop.
It's contrary to international standards.
we consider
that this is a very important
indicator for the international community in
relation to
the points I made earlier
about demanding
progress and improvements on human rights
benchmarks before there can be any normalisation
of the current administration in Afghanistan. Thank you.
Thank you. We have a question from
Lili Nabila.
Um, can you hear me?
Yes, we can please go ahead. Can you hear me?
Ok. Um, I have, uh My question is, um what is your prospect concerning the inclusive
inclusivity of other ethnic groups in Afghanistan
with the Taliban?
Thank you. That's covered
in my recent report and as well in previous reports, Afghanistan
is a
diverse a richly diverse
different ethnicities, religions
and languages.
So moving forward,
there needs to be a focus
not on division
but on coming together
and on
and social
elements of all the different groups in Afghanistan.
Inclusivity is crucial.
It is not sufficient.
At present
it there needs to be
considerable progress made in this area.
If there is to be, in my view, sustainable peace.
It's a bedrock of human rights inclusivity.
And as mentioned in my
reply to the previous question,
if there are to be benchmarks
connected to any
kind of political process
for the reintegration of Afghanistan,
this too. The
question of genuine inclusivity needs to be on the table.
Thank you.
Thank you. And we have a follow up question, I think from Baza
Uh, yes, thank you. Just a quick one.
You said that for the cessation of such, uh, executions,
international communities should,
uh, put a pressure on the Afghanistan. But
when you're talking about that, what kind of measures you're
specifically talking about it.
Which measures should we take to create that pressure? Thank you.
Well, I think the measure that I've talked about most
to use leverage
as regards
any kind of normalisation or
integration. Reintegration
of Afghanistan. I think there is leverage there.
Of course, there are also other measures in terms of condemnation,
and there may be legal measures that can be taken.
haven't mentioned previously in
this in this press conference, but I did yesterday in the council
that we are aware that the investigation of
the International Criminal Court is fully under way
in Afghanistan.
And there may be opportunities in other international courts,
including the International Court of Justice,
when it comes to
violations of the Ceda
that Afghanistan is a party to
so speaking out,
refusing to
and normalise
and accountability measures are three that I'll mention here. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr Bennett,
If there are no more questions,
we will proceed and close this press conference.
But thank you very much to everybody for participating.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Maya.