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Afghanistan update

The information below on relevant human rights dimensions is provided ahead of Security Council deliberations on Afghanistan. This follows on a previous detailed post from March 2023.

Key topics below

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  1. HRC draft resolution to be adopted by 13 October 2023.

  2. UNAMA's report on treatment of detainees (20 September 2023).

  3. UN-Women/IOM/UNAMA report on consultations with Afghan women, including recommendations (19 September 2023).

  4. High Commissioner's briefing and report to the HRC (12 September 2023).

  5. Human Rights Watch's detailed recommendations (12 September 2023).

  6. Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan briefing to HRC (11 September 2023).

  7. UNAMA's report on violations against the former Government's personnel (22 August 2023).

  • Notable statements during dialogues with the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur in the HRC (11-12 September 2023): The EU, the OIC, Ecuador, Switzerland, the UAE and the US.


Relevant information for the Security Council to consider [1,351 words]

  1. By 13 October 2023, a draft resolution currently negotiated in the Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan is expected to be tabled by the EU and adopted. The resolution is likely to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and possibly increase the team’s resources. Human Rights Watch called for the HRC to also, finally, create a new accountability mechanism for Afghanistan, with the capacity and mandate to collect and preserve evidence of all international crimes committed in Afghanistan, including a strong focus on crimes against women and girls. The HRC adopted its previous resolution on the topic (51/20) on 7 October 2022 by a vote of 29-3 with 15 abstentions. Security Council members voted as follows: In favor: Brazil, France, Japan, the UAE, the UK and the US; Against: China; Abstained: Gabon.

  2. On 20 September 2023, the human rights service of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) published a comprehensive report on the treatment of detainees. The High Commissioner for Human Rights said that “the personal accounts of beatings, electric shocks, water torture, and numerous other forms of cruel and degrading treatment, along with threats made against individuals and their families, are harrowing. Torture is forbidden in all circumstances.” The report highlights the urgent need for the professionalization of the de facto security and prison authorities in a number of areas, including their capacity to conduct investigations.

  3. On 19 September 2023, UN Women, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNAMA published a summary report following their quarterly country-wide consultations with women. It presents Afghan women's perspectives on their current situation and priorities. It also details their recommendations (focused on women and girls): Advocacy and engagement with the de facto authorities >> Continue political and economic sanctions. >> Increase engagement with the Taliban on gender equality. >> Support social media campaigns to shift social norms. Political participation >> Advocate for women’s political participation. >> Focus on women’s legal and physical protection in politics and at home. Economic empowerment >> Increase women’s access to the Internet. >> Continue advocating for women’s uninhibited right to work. >> Support skills development. >> Support female entrepreneurs. >> Advance alternative access to literacy and numeracy courses. Health and safety >> Support initiatives that provide counseling and psychosocial services. >> Support initiatives that provide international scholarships and safe migration options.

  4. On 12 September 2023, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Volker Türk, briefed the HRC. He described the ban on women to work for the UN as "[flying] in the face of the UN Charter and its fundamental principle of equality, compromising both human rights and the humanitarian response." He found that "the shocking level of oppression of Afghan women and girls is immeasurably cruel." He noted that his report (A/HRC/54/21) showed that Afghanistan’s legal and institutional frameworks have undergone profound changes since August 2021. The High Commissioner noted that the human rights presence on the ground, with reference to UNAMA with its human rights component and his colleagues, have never been more critical, in the absence of other human rights institutions in the country and many diplomatic missions. He encouraged States to support the work of his Office on the ground to bring some degree of protection and witness. OHCHR's report includes an analysis of the human rights obligations of the State of Afghanistan; the humanitarian and economic situation; the administration of justice; human rights institutions; policies affecting the enjoyment of human rights; violations of the rights to life, liberty and security of the person; accountability; and recommendations, including inter alia, to support the continuation of the human rights mandate of UNAMA and ensure that adequate resources are provided for ongoing human rights monitoring, documentation, reporting and advocacy.

  5. Also on 12 September 2023, Ms. Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch detailed several additional recommendations: i. Implement the recommendations of the June 2023 joint report to the HRC by the Special Rapporteur and the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls. The report detailed the restrictions, human rights violations and many recommendations. ii. Assess the recommendations in the upcoming Secretary-General's recommendations to the Security Council through the lens of what relief to provide to those experiencing human rights violations by the Taliban, especially women and girls. iii. Renew the mandate of UNAMA when it expires in March 2024, with its mandate and staffing to monitor the human rights situation fully intact. iv. Ensure that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has the resources and cooperation necessary to fulfill its mandate, as an investigation into crimes committed in Afghanistan was authorized in October 2022 to resume. HRW recently published a short report, explaining how the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls meets the four requirements for crimes against humanity as set out under the Rome Statute, and therefore falling under the ICC's jurisdiction. Similarly, the joint report of the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and the WG on discrimination against women [mentioned in para 5.i above] explained the applicability of article 7.2 (h) of the Rome Statute, if gender apartheid could be understood as inhumane acts committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one gender group over any other gender group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime [para 95]. It noted that nowhere else in the world has there been an attack as widespread, systematic and all-encompassing on the rights of women and girls as in Afghanistan [para 97]. v. Bring an action in the International Court of Justice against Afghanistan over the Taliban's blatant violation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (as also recommended by the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan). vi. Strengthen protections for women and girls in the UN draft treaty on crimes against humanity. vii. Ensure Afghan women's “equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security,” including at the UN, in line with Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

  6. On 11 September 2023, Mr. Richard Bennett, the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan, briefed the HRC. He said that the de facto regime has eviscerated the rights, life chances and dignity of women and girls. The Taliban limits every aspect of their lives from work to education, attire and appearance in public. The Special Rapporteur reiterated that the systematic, widespread, institutionalized discrimination that seeks to exclude women from all facets of life necessitates an examination of the evolving phenomenon of “gender apartheid”. These concerns were echoed by Afghanistan's Mission to the UN (representing the former Government), as well as UN Women: "Through more than 50 edicts, orders and restrictions, the Taliban have left no aspect of women’s and girls’ lives untouched. Their system, founded on the mass oppression of women, is rightly and widely considered gender apartheid." [UN Women's statement] The Special Rapporteur reiterated his call on the Taliban to reverse their draconian, misogynist policies and allow women to work and run businesses, including delivering essential services through NGOs and the UN, as well as re-open the doors of schools and universities with a curriculum that meets international standards. The compounded impact of these restrictions and the dire socio-economic situation, has impacted mental health, demonstrated graphically by alarming reports of a surge in suicides and suicide attempts, especially among women since the Taliban takeover. Children go to bed hungry, they are forced into labor and marriage, they become victims of explosive war remnants and they forego education. Civil society activists, journalists, and peaceful protesters are subjected to restrictions, censorship, arbitrary arrest and detention. Refugees face hardships in obtaining work and healthcare in their host countries. Minorities face discrimination, targeted violence, displacement and exclusion. The Special Rapporteur will present his next written report to the General Assembly in late October.

  7. On 22 August 2023, UNAMA published a report titled: A barrier to securing peace: Human rights violations against former government officials and former armed force members in Afghanistan (15 August 2021 – 30 June 2023). The de facto authorities' response was attached to the report, incredibly denying all allegations.


Comments by Members of the Security Council [242 words]

  1. On 11-12 September 2023, the Human Rights Council held dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Many delegations condemned the discrimination against women and girls and urged the Taliban to comply with international human rights and international humanitarian law obligations. Several of them specifically criticized the Taliban's restriction of women's work in the UN and NGOs, including the EU, the OIC, Ecuador and the UAE. The EU called for accountability. The EU and Switzerland also referred to LGBTI people, among others, with regard to discrimination and the need for an inclusive political dialogue. The US stated that it was resolute that there is no path towards normalization until the Taliban respects the rights of all Afghans and end their oppressive actions. The OIC highlighted humanitarian concerns, including children's hunger. The UAE noted that banning girls' education was a violation of basic human rights and Security Council resolutions 2615 and 2681. The UAE commended the Security Council's unanimous adoption of resolution 2678 on March 16, 2023, led by the UAE and Japan, extending UNAMA's mandate, so that it can continue promoting human rights, communicating with all Afghan parties concerned and coordinating aid delivery. The UAE also commended the Security Council’s adoption of resolution 2679, which called for an independent assessment of the international approach taken towards Afghanistan.

  2. On 21 June 2023, Member States expressed similar sentiments in the Security Council's meeting on the situation in Afghanistan.

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