The 52nd Session of the Human Rights Council
27 February - 4 April 2023
Item 2: Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan
6 March 2023
By Tamir Boldbaatar and Sasha Granelli / GICJ
At the 52nd Session of the Human Rights Council on March 6th 2023, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Benett raised multiple concerns about the violations of women and girls rights in the country, additionally over the discrimination against minorities. The Special Rapporteur also pointed out the negative impact of the economic crisis on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, which has worsened by the humanitarian aid challenges to access Afghan people.
Since the last report from the Special Rapporteur on September 9th, 2022, human rights violations have deteriorated in Afghanistan and women’s rights have completely disappeared.
Women and girls have been totally evicted from society. They are being excluded from school and university, they face multiple interdiction to work and remain highly discriminated against, and are subjected to gender persecution.
Moreover, violence continues to be spread throughout Afghan society, especially against religious minorities. The political and economic crisis made poverty grow, and the violations of the rule of law left Afghan people without any legal protection.
International investigations have resumed on the crimes committed in Afghanistan, which like the Special Rapporteur said, is a good start. However, the international community needs to do more in order to protect Afghan people and to ensure the respect of human rights by the de facto authority.
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ), in line with the Special Rapporteur, strongly condemn all the human rights violations perpetrated against Afghani people by the de facto authorities. Maeva Giambrone of GICJ spoke at the Human Rights Council during the Interactive Dialogue on the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. In its joint statement with Meezaan Center for Human Rights, Geneva International Centre for Justice condemned the measures adopted and the disproportionate repression they have resorted to against these women and appealed to the international community to continue their efforts to force the Taliban to respect international law.
The military forces from the United States of America and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation left Afghanistan on the 14th of April 2021, after more than a decade of deployments and occupation. Allowing the Taliban to take effective control of the nation. On the 15th of August 2022, the Afghanistan President, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, also fled the country. Since then, Afghanistan has endured terrible economic and human rights crises under the new government system, in addition to continuous instability. The Taliban leadership has successfully regressed the country's efforts toward equal rights and progress for women and girls. In addition, there has been an increase in violence towards ethnic minorities, restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, economic decline, and a lack of administration of justice.
In May 2022, Mr. Richard Benett was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan since the takeover of the Taliban. The Special Rapporteur presented his first report on the situation in the country that he observed on his visit to Afghanistan from the 8th to 20th of October 2022, where he met with numerous stakeholders, civil society, women’s groups, NGOs and others. He published his last report on February 9th, 2023 This report is based on his observation and appreciation of the situation in Afghanistan during his visit.
Report of the Special Rapporteur
In the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan (A/HRC/52/84), it was reported that the situation has worsened in Afghanistan, especially concerning women and girl’s rights and religious minorities. The violations of women’s and girl’s rights led to more violence and repression in society. The Taliban claimed that schools will reopen for girls, while they simultaneously prohibit access for girls to university. Women are excluded from work, especially in the public sector and certain public places, but also authorities don’t stop to control them and their clothes every time they are outside. Violence against women and girl’s is rising with total impunity, and the suicide and depression rate is becoming very high.
The economic crisis has also had an important impact on society, especially due to the unilateral sanctions adopted by the international community after the takeover of the de facto authority. Still, there is a need to let humanitarian aid be accessible to Afghan people who face poverty and lack adequate food. Same, health care is insufficient and the help sent by humanitarian organizations are subject to interference and restrictions by the de facto authorities.
The Special Rapporteur also noted a startling amount of discrimination towards minority groups and religious minorities in Afghanistan who experience marginalization and violence in total impunity. They face extrajudicial killings, threats, torture and detention. Moreover, their participation in public life is evicted and they are marginalized.
In his report, the Special Rapporteur highlighted the problematic rule of law in Afghanistan which is challenged by numerous violations such as irregular procedures, no codified law, no separation of power and access to fair justice. Some Courts have been suppressed and physical punishment have been reinstated.
Civic space has also been restricted with the situation of human rights defenders being concerned, especially women rights defenders who face high risk of threats and harassment. Freedom of expression has also been restricted with journalists being spied on and threatened.
Children also face a lot of violations of their rights and are mostly recruited in order to go fight against the opposition. International humanitarian law is absolutely not respected in these regional fights and violence is spread. Children also face malnutrition and a lot of violence with their exposition to the fight.
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan began by reiterating his concerns about the human rights deterioration in Afghanistan. He noted more attacks on the rights of women and girls, but also on ethnic and religious minorities, economic hardship, restriction of media and civil society actions and the continuation of violence against members of the former government. The Special Rapporteur highlighted the recent violations against women and girls who have been banned from visiting parks and bars. Now they are prevented from attending university and are being banned from working for NGOs in December 2022.
Despite these violations, the Special Rapporteur noted that the de facto authorities have allowed him to visit Afghanistan and discuss with different stakeholders.
He noted the role of the Human Rights Council is to work in order to ensure the respect of human rights and to make the de facto authority stop the violations they are perpetrating in Afghanistan. He also called for accountability for those responsible for serious human rights violations.
The Special Rapporteur made recommendations to the Council and also to states about what actions needed to be taken in order to make the situation evolve. He noted that the Taliban's policy is to repudiate the human rights of women and girls and erase them from public life. The Taliban must reverse the discriminatory policy and respect their international obligations especially under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The Special Rapporteur pointed out that the poverty rate is doubled with the majority of the population in need of humanitarian aid. This situation is not due to a lack of food but the population simply lack cash to buy it.
The Taliban continues to interfere in the delivery of humanitarian aid and the Special Rapporteur urges them to stop these actions.
The Special Rapporteur highlighted the collapse of the rule of law and raised concerns about the still ambiguous judicial system administered by the de facto authority. Women have been banned from the judicial system therefore this is an all men regime that is established.
Activists and journalists continue to be put in detention for their work and action. the special rapporteur called for their release and their right to work openly. He also highlighted the horrific practice of punishment in public that has been used by the de facto authority since November 2022 on men, women and children without fair trial.
The Representative of Afghanistan welcomed the report and thanks the Special Rapporteur for its visits to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, he raised the fact that the Taliban have failed to answer the demands of people of Afghanistan and failed to respect their international obligations. Women, minorities, activists, journalists and former members of the government suffer on a daily basis. He noted the impunity that remains in the country and highlighted the gender apartheid that takes place in Afghanistan.
He highlighted that many casualties and violations are still documented by Afghan people and NGOS on the ground, and that this report is only one part. He called for the responsibility of all the members of the Human Rights Council and remembered the need for investigations of these atrocities. He make multiple recommendations :
-First of all, he urged the council to answer the call of fearless human rights activists around the world to establish an independent investigative mechanism.
-Secondly, he also called on the international community to support the establishment of a representative and inclusive government in Afghanistan. Finally, he called all the members of this council to ensure that any engagement with the Taliban is contingent upon and centered around respect for human rights for the people of Afghanistan.
The Representative of the European Union thanked the Special Rapporteur for its report. She raised concerns about the banning of Afghan women from public life. The representative was concerned about the violations of international obligations by the de facto authority and all the persons facing human rights violations, arbitrary detentions extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture in Afghanistan. She called for accountability for the violations of international humanitarian law and for the human rights violations. The Representative asked what more can be done to address the extrajudicial killings.
The Representative of Iceland speaking on behalf of a group of countries raised concerns about the worsening situation in Afghanistan especially for women and girls and minorities. He strongly condemns the violations of women and girls rights and their exclusion of the society which amount to gender persecution which is a crime against humanity. The representative confirmed that they stand with women and girls of Afghanistan.
The Representative of Pakistan on behalf of the OIC, shared concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. They are disappointed about the measures taken against women and girls rights in Afghanistan. They urge the Taliban to take steps to ensure women and girls the right to education in order to contribute to Afghan society. He called the international community to continue to engage with Afghanistan and provide humanitarian aid.
The Representative of UN Women raised concerns about the catastrophic human rights situation in Afghanistan. She noted that the ban on women to work for NGOs have put a majority of Afghan women in the need of humanitarian assistance and put more pressure on the economy of the country. The representative highlighted that it is the international community's responsibility to stand with the women of Afghanistan.
The Representative of the United States expressed her concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Afghanistan which exacerbated its historical humanitarian situation. The ban on women to work for NGOs have created roadblocks in the delivery of humanitarian aid to vulnerable communities. She highlighted the unprecedented impact of these measures on generations of women in Afghanistan. She called on the international community to remain united to pressure the Taliban, to respect their international obligations.
The Representative of Qatar expressed deep concerns on the decisions of Afghanistan that negatively affects the respect of women and girls rights. They affirm the importance of continuing the communication with all parties. She highlighted that Afghanistan faced numerous crises, economic, humanitarian, political, social and restrictions continue to be imposed on the banking system. She called the international community to support Afghanistan and provide the necessary support.
The Representative of Japan remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Afghanistan and condemns the measures taken to ban women and girls from public life. Since Japan has engaged with the Taliban to urge them to change their policy, the representative noted their disappointment by the Taliban's failure to take appropriate actions. The Representative called the international community to avoid isolating the Taliban and he called the Council to condemn their actions but at the same time engage dialogue with them in order to make them change their actions.
The Representative of China expressed the thought that the country is generally stable one year after the takeover. They highlighted that the previous military intervention into the country did not work. They called on the international community to respect the integrity and the sovereignty of Afghanistan and continue to engage with the actual government and to provide humanitarian assistance. She pointed out the role that the United States played in the actual crisis in Afghanistan and called on them to stop the unilateral sanctions on Afghanistan.
To conclude the session, the Special Rapporteur called the de facto authority to restore gender equality and ensure the representation and participation of women. He also called on the Taliban to address the economic crisis. The international community was called to increase the communication with the de facto authority in order to force them to respect their international obligation. States were also called to continue supporting Afghan people by providing humanitarian aid.
Position of Geneva International Centre for Justice
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) strongly condemns all the human rights violations perpetrated against Afghani people. We remain deeply concerned about the gender persecution established by the de facto authority in Afghanistan against women and girls. The de facto authorities still don’t respect their international obligations and despite the pressure established by the international community. The violence against minorities, women, children, activists and journalists must stop and accountability must be purchased. We call on the international community to continue the dialogue with the de facto authority, but also continue to provide humanitarian aid as the economic crisis continues to worsen in Afghanistan. An independent international mechanism needs to be established in order to ensure accountability and justice for all these violations.
Afghanistan Women_and_Girls_Rights Peace Justice Equality Geneva UN Human_Rights_Council GICJ Geneva4Justice Geneva_International_Centre_For_Justice