‘Afghanistan at a crossroads due to critical human rights challenges’

Kabul, May 26 (EFE).– Richard Bennett, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur for Afghanistan on human rights, Thursday said the war-battered country faced grave human rights challenges and urged the de facto Taliban government “to close the gap between their words and their deeds.”

Winding up his 11-day Afghan visit, Bennett told reporters in Kabul that the Taliban government had “failed to acknowledge the magnitude and gravity of the abuses – many of them in their name.

He urged the Islamist regime to acknowledge the human rights challenges “that are having a severe impact on the population.”

The UN expert expressed alarm that many of the government’s policies and “drive for absolute control” had a cumulative effect on a wide range of human rights that have created “a society ruled by fear.”

He particularly mentioned that the “advancing erasure of women from public life is especially concerning.”

Bennet said the Taliban diktats on females “fit the pattern of absolute gender segregation…aimed at making women invisible in society.”

He cited the suspension of secondary education for girls, severe barriers to employment, no opportunities to participate in political and public life, limits on freedom of movement, association, and expression, directives on mahram (male family member chaperone), enforcing a strict form of Hijab and advice to stay at home.

He said the directives contravene Afghanistan’s obligations under numerous human rights treaties to which it is a state party.

He noted that women still demonstrated their determination to participate equally in society “despite the odds against them.”

Bennet called upon the Taliban to immediately reverse policies and directives that negatively impact women.

He asked them “to prioritize rights of women and girl to equal participation in education, employment, and all other aspects of public life.”

The UN Special Rapporteur acknowledged the Taliban extended their invitation to access the entire territory and to visit sensitive locations like schools, hospitals, and prisons “in a crucial commitment to ensure that transparent monitoring can be undertaken.”

He noted that armed hostilities in many parts of the country had ceased, and there was a consequent reduction in conflict-related casualties since the Taliban took over on Aug.15 last year.

He said the recently established panel for the return of leading Afghan personalities might provide an opportunity for dialog and potentially strengthen governance.

While granting the general amnesty to officials of the ex-government and members of the security forces could be the first step toward reconciliation, he expressed alarm about reports of alleged extrajudicial and revenge killings of former security officers.

Bennet noted with concern the high number of reports of intimidation, harassment, attacks, arrests, and in some cases, killing or disappearance of journalists, prosecutors, and judges for undertaking their duties.

“Civil society space and media freedom is critical for a peaceful society in which rights are respected.” EFE


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