LAST WEEK, the US, the Western countries and other allies joined hands to condemn the Afghan Taliban for the alleged “summary killings” of dozens of former security forces personnel and enforced disappearances. The group of nations voiced their deep concern over a Human Rights Watch report that has documented instances of serious human rights abuses by the new rulers of Afghanistan. The report cites 47 instances of former members of the Afghan National Security Forces, other military personnel, policemen and intelligence agents “who had surrendered to or were apprehended by Taliban forces” being either summarily executed or arbitrarily arrested or ‘disappeared’. The report contradicts the Taliban’s earlier announcement of amnesty for all former government civilian and military officials and their assurances of holding violators amongst their ranks accountable.
Of course, the Taliban’s interior ministry has rejected the report, calling for evidence, while at the same time, acknowledging “some cases” of murder of former officials due to personal rivalries and enmities. The acting defence minister, Mullah Muhammad Yaqub, acknowledged “isolated reports” of unauthorised execution. In September, the Taliban formed a commission to purge from its ranks anyone involved in violating orders, followed by a statement saying they had removed 755 members found to have committed such acts and that a military tribunal had been formed to try those accused of “murder, torture and illegal detention”, Action speaks louder than words, and their words must match their actions. As the HRW report says, the Taliban must investigate reported instances of such abuses and prosecute and punish those responsible through independent and credible courts. They must also provide full information to those whose family members have gone missing through enforced disappearances and provide full access to the UN, the media and human rights organisations to investigate and report on human rights in Afghanistan. It is equally important for the world at large, more so for the US and Western groups, to continue to engage the Taliban to ensure that internationally recognised human rights are fully protected. Sitting on the fringes and condemning and voicing concerns is simply not enough. Any direct assistance to the Taliban must not come without them fully complying with their international obligations and showing respect for the rule of law and human rights. HRW has rightly called upon the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan to “maintain and fully implement its mandate to investigate human rights violations and abuses”. The mission must act on its advice.
Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2021