Activists urge UN to investigate alleged Taliban crimes

FILE PHOTO: The flag of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) is raised at the military airfield in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 5, 2021. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

GENEVA (Reuters) - The ousted Afghan government and activist groups called on the main U.N. human rights body on Monday to investigate reports of targeted killings and restrictions on women and free speech by the ruling Taliban.

The appeals, which came as the European Union (EU) prepares to submit a draft resolution on Afghanistan, was backed by the head of the country's independent commission on human rights, who said that many of its own activities have been suspended.

The U.N. Human Rights Council held an emergency session last month after the Taliban takeover, but activists said that the Pakistan-led resolution that was adopted was too weak. That text asked U.N. rights boss Michelle Bachelet to report back, giving her few resources or power.

Bachelet told the forum on Sept. 13 that Taliban had broken promises by ordering women to stay at home and by carrying out house-to-house searches for former foes.

An EU draft resolution circulated at this session, seen by Reuters, condemns executions and violence against protesters and media. If adopted, it would appoint a special rapporteur, but not a full-fledged inquiry.

"We urge Council members, in line with the Council's mandate, to adopt a resolution in this current session establishing a dedicated and effective mechanism to monitor the human rights situation in Afghanistan, a must for accountability and prevention," Nasir Ahmad Andisha, Afghanistan's ambassador, still in function, told the Geneva forum.

Activists said that a special rapporteur - independent experts who usually have full-time jobs - would fall short.

"A mere special rapporteur with some assistance from (the UN rights office) is not enough," Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told a panel event. "Given the complexity of the country, an investigative mechanism needs a full team, with dedicated resources and a clear mandate."

Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International who is a former U.N. investigator on unlawful killings, said that human rights monitoring was "extraordinarily important" now.

"The preservation of evidence is also critical to send a clear message to the Taliban that international crimes do not go unnoticed or unpunished," she said.

Shaharzad Akbar, chair of the Afghanistan independent human rights commission who has fled the country, said the Taliban has carried out targeting killings mainly against former national security forces and some ordinary citizens.

"They are creating an environment of fear for everyone, including for human rights defenders, women's rights activists and journalists that are still in the country, most of them in hiding," she told the panel.

"We have reports of extrajudicial killings of detainees," she said.

Taliban authorities in the western Afghan city of Herat killed four alleged kidnappers and hung their bodies up in public to deter others, a local government official said on Saturday.

(additional reporting by Emma Farge; editing by Angus MacSwan)

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