Taliban should be encouraged to respect all human rights: UN rights chief

By Peter Kenny


GENEVA (AA): The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution by consensus Tuesday which called for a cease-fire in Afghanistan and urged all parties to halt violence and refrain from undermining the fundamental freedoms of its people.

The European Union was critical of the resolution for diluting its criticism of human rights in the country, while China denounced the US and its allies for what they did in the past in Afghanistan.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet had earlier called on global powers and regional actors to use their influence with the Taliban to encourage respect for human rights for all.

Opening a special meeting of the Human Rights Council, Bachelet said “Islamic-majority countries, in particular, could share their successful experiences of implementing international human rights norms in their cultural and religious contexts.”

She said the Taliban’s rapid seizure of much of Afghanistan, including the capital, has raised fears of returning to the past and stoked desperation among many Afghans.

“In recent weeks, my office has received harrowing and credible reports of the impact on civilians of violations of international humanitarian law, as well as violations and abuses of human rights, by the parties to the conflict,” she noted.

They include summary executions of civilians and members of the Afghan national security forces who were not involved in combat at the time, she said.

Bachelet also noted that they include restrictions on women’s rights – including their right to move around freely and girls’ right to attend schools – the recruitment of child soldiers and repression of peaceful protests and expressions of dissent.

Millions displaced

Bachelet said the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that an additional 270,000 people have been forced to leave their homes and livelihoods since January, bringing the total number of displaced people to more than 3.5 million.

“We can expect that significant numbers of people will seek refuge in neighboring countries or outside the region,” she said.

The rights chief said the UN is committed to Afghanistan and the Afghan people.

“The United Nations is committed to stay and deliver aid to those in greatest need, to support efforts to restore peace and stability, and to promote the rights and dignity of all Afghans. With fundamental human rights in the balance, my office will be working urgently to reinstate arrangements for monitoring human rights violations,” she said.

The meeting was called after a joint request by Pakistan, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) coordinator on human rights and humanitarian issues, and Afghanistan and had the backing of 29 nations in the 47-strong council.

The hybrid virtual meeting took place at Geneva’s Palais des Nations with the support of Turkey and the US and a diverse group of nations including Azerbaijan, Belgium, Egypt, Greece, Kazakhstan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, the United Arab Emirates and Palestine.

Taliban representatives have said no one need fear their rule, while Western leaders have voiced skepticism and vowed vigilance.

[Photo: People waiting to flee Afghanistan around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 24, 2021. Photographer: Haroon Sabawoon/AA]

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