By Cecilia Ologunagba
UN Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet led calls on Tuesday for Afghanistan’s new Taliban leaders to respect the rights of all Afghans.
Bachelet also warned that the treatment of women and girls is 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, Bachelet reminded Member States of credible reports of violations of international humanitarian law against civilians in areas under their control.
According to her, the reports make it especially important that the Human Rights Council work in unison to prevent further abuses.
Bachelet said that Member States should establish a dedicated mechanism to monitor the fast-evolving situation in Afghanistan, and in particular, the Taliban’s implementation of its promises.
“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, Dr Nasir Andisha described the prevailing sense of apprehension in the country with “millions fearing for their lives”.
Andisha warned that a humanitarian crisis was “unfolding as we speak”, and that thousands of people were at risk.
“From human rights defenders to journalists, academics, professionals, civil society members and former security personnel “who were the backbone of a contemporary and democratic society”.
Speaking at the Council, Andisha reminded Member States that the situation on the ground remained uncertain.
“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.”
Anita Ramasastry, Chair of the Coordination Committee of UN Special Procedures, also noted that women and girls, and many internally displaced people face particular risks.
“Many of these persons are in hiding as the Taliban continues to search homes door-to-door,” she said, “and there are serious concerns that such information gathering may lead to them being targeted for reprisals.
“Searches, arrests, harassment, and intimidation, as well as seizures of property and reprisals are already being reported.”