Afghanistan: Disappointing Human Rights Council Resolution a major blow for human rights

Statement after the special session on Afghanistan at the UN Human Rights Council

The Resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council during its Special Session on 24 August 2021 in response to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan fails to effectively address grave human rights violations in the country. 

“The resolution is the weakest possible response to the crisis as it ignored urgent requests from civil society to establish an international monitoring and accountability mechanism in response to rights abuses and to prevent a looming humanitarian crisis,” said Susan Wildling, Head of Geneva Office for CIVICUS.

The resolution, which fails to explicitly mention the “Taliban” by name calls on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to present a report at the Council’s 49th Session in March 2022.  It calls for an interactive dialogue to accompany the report which could potentially limit the number of civil society voices able to report on the atrocities on the ground.

The Special Session was called by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation  (OIC) and was co-sponsored by Afghanistan and a number of UN Member States could have created an independent international investigative mechanism to gather evidence of abuses as a step towards ensuring  accountability of perpetrators of human rights violations. While many member and observer States voiced their support for an independent investigative mechanism, the Resolution  fell far short of this bare minimum request.

“At a time when the people of Afghanistan urgently need a concerted response from the international community, the Human Rights Council failed to show leadership by ignoring calls from civil society for a gender-sensitive investigative mechanism to record violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,”  said Susan Wilding.

The Taliban have a track record of attacking civilians and engaging in reprisals against those who criticise them. Some have been abducted and killed.  Following the takeover of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, human rights defenders have reported that lists of names of representatives of civil society have been revealed by the Taliban and raids have been carried out in their homes.  Women human rights defenders and journalists are particularly at risk.  Others trying to flee Afghanistan have been prevented from boarding airplanes as foreign missions have prioritized evacuating their own nationals and staff.  Several have gone into hiding for fear for their lives.  The Taliban has also cracked down on peaceful protests in several cities.

The failure of the Human Rights Council to address the human rights concerns of the people of Afghanistan and hold the Taliban accountable for its human rights violations is a missed opportunity.  CIVICUS believes the Human Rights Council must use its September Session to develop an adequate response to the crisis.

Presently, CIVICUS urges UN agencies and multilateral institutions to retain their presence in Afghanistan with a view to actively safeguarding human rights & gender justice gains. The presence of UN agencies is crucial to a coordinated response to protect those at risk  of persecution. UN Member States should support the UN to play a lead role in responding to the crisis on the ground. 

Further, CIVICUS urges the urgent inclusion of Civil Society in any national and international initiatives on Afghanistan. 

Civic space in Afghanistan is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.



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