More than 200 former Afghan soldiers and officials have been killed extrajudicially since August 2021 despite a general amnesty announced by the Taliban immediately after its takeover.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) – in its first report since the Taliban takeover two years ago – documented 800 cases of serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and enforced disappearances.
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UNAMA recorded almost half of all extrajudicial killings of former government officials and Afghan security forces during the first four months of Taliban rule. But violations continued in 2022, with 70 extrajudicial killings recorded.
“UNAMA’s report presents a sobering picture of the treatment of individuals affiliated with the former government and security forces of Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover of the country,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, said in a statement accompanying the release of the report on Tuesday.
“Even more so, given they were assured that they would be not targeted, it is a betrayal of the people’s trust,” Turk said, urging the Taliban to uphold international law and prevent further violations.
Days after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country in August 2021, the Taliban announced a “general amnesty” for government workers across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government.
Despite the pledge, the UN report documented more than 424 arbitrary arrests and detentions of former government officials and former members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and more than 144 instances of torture and ill-treatment.
Individuals interviewed by the UN agency described being beaten with pipes and cables, as well as receiving verbal threats and abuse.
UNAMA heard from family members whose relatives had been arrested or gone missing, their bodies found days or even months later. In some instances, individuals have never been found.
The report, covering the period from the Taliban takeover to June 30, 2023, said “impunity prevails” in Afghanistan, where efforts by the authorities to investigate and hold perpetrators accountable have been “extremely limited”.
Even in the few cases where an investigation was announced, progress lacked transparency and accountability, UNAMA said.
Rights violations were recorded across all 34 provinces, with the greatest number in Kabul, Kandahar and Balkh provinces.
Roza Otunbayeva, the secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, called on the Taliban to “demonstrate a genuine commitment to the general amnesty”.
“This is a crucial step in ensuring real prospects for justice, reconciliation and lasting peace in Afghanistan,” Otunbayeva said.
Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman, dubbed the UN accusations as “politically motivated”.
“The UN and other entities which level accusations don’t know whether these people have been killed as a result of personal vendetta or other cases of individual crimes,” Shaheen said from Doha, the capital of Qatar.
He said that Afghans who commit crimes are prosecuted accordingly to the law.
The Taliban spokesman, however, denied that former soldiers or officials have been “prosecuted for their previous deeds”.
“The government’s policy is clear, there is general amnesty for all former regime officials,” he told Al Jazeera.
Earlier, the Afghan foreign ministry dismissed the report.
“Murder without trial, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and other acts against human rights by the employees of the security institutions of the Islamic Emirate against the employees and security forces of the previous government have not been reported,” it said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan as United States and NATO troops withdrew from the country after two decades of war. The US-trained and backed Afghan forces crumbled as thousands of terrified Afghans and foreigners rushed to Kabul airport in a frenzied scramble to board the last flights out of the country.
Despite promising a more moderate administration compared with their previous stint in power in the late 1990s, the Taliban has imposed its strict interpretation of Islamic law by enforcing harsh rules, banning girls’ education after the sixth grade and barring Afghan women from public life and most work, including for nongovernmental organisations and the UN.
There’s no curb on women’s education and employment in most Muslim-majority countries around the world. Muslim scholars and leaders say Islam grants education and employment rights to women.