UN Security Council: Renew Afghanistan Mission

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Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 22, 2021.
© 2021 Rahmat Gul/AP Images

(New York) – The United Nations Security Council should renew the UN mission in Afghanistan and bolster its capacity to monitor, investigate, and report on human rights abuses in the country since the Taliban takeover, Human Rights Watch said today. The mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expires on September 17, 2021. 

Security Council members have been discussing a resolution to renew UNAMA’s mandate in the coming weeks. While UNAMA and other UN agencies will need to adjust to the rapidly evolving political and security environment in Afghanistan, the UN’s presence in the country remains critical for helping to protect the Afghan people. The UN mission’s role in monitoring the Taliban’s compliance with Afghanistan’s international human rights obligations will be especially important.

“The Security Council should renew UNAMA’s mandate and ensure that the mission and other UN agencies have the resources needed to deliver lifesaving aid and to fully monitor human rights,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch. “The Taliban have an abysmal track record on human rights and violating the rights of women and girls in particular, so the UN mission needs to be the world’s eyes on the ground to publicly report on the situation in Afghanistan.”

The Security Council established UNAMA in 2002 to replace the UN Special Mission in Afghanistan, under the Bonn Agreement following the 2001 ouster of the previous Taliban-led government. The council provided UNAMA with a broad mandate to monitor human rights, support the rule of law, protect women’s rights, and encourage national reconciliation.

The UN mission should continue to report regularly and publicly on abuses against women and girls, minorities, children, detainees, people with disabilities, and others at heightened risk of rights violations, Human Rights Watch said. The mission should also support protection efforts, including by monitoring and reporting on reprisals against people such as those associated with the former Afghan government, foreign governments and forces previously based in Afghanistan, media organizations, and human rights and other civil society organizations.

In resolution 2593, adopted on August 30, the Security Council urged the Taliban to keep its promise to ensure safe passage for all those who wish to leave the country. The UN mission and other UN agencies should monitor and publicly report on the Taliban’s compliance with that resolution.

UNAMA should also cooperate with international justice mechanisms and any additional international fact-finding bodies investigating rights abuses in Afghanistan.

UN humanitarian agencies and nongovernmental organizations should continue to play a lifesaving role in Afghanistan. The country’s humanitarian and human rights crisis pre-dates the current turmoil. Afghanistan has been one of the UN’s biggest humanitarian operations worldwide. Member countries should ensure that UN humanitarian aid operations are fully funded and that aid organizations face no legal obstacles from sanctions, in line with Secretary-General Guterres’ appeal on August 31.

In light of existing sanctions, other countries should make it clear that airlines will not be penalized if they operate in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Other countries should grant asylum or at least temporary protection to Afghan asylum seekers at their borders or in their territory and move swiftly to resettle Afghan refugees and provide visas to allow other Afghans to enter.

The Taliban should cooperate with UNAMA and UN and other humanitarian organizations to fulfill Afghanistan’s obligations under international human rights law. Taliban authorities should comply with their obligation to provide protection to UN staff and facilities while ensuring that all UN staff members, including women, and other organizations have unfettered access across the country to carry out their work.

In August, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, told a special session of the Human Rights Council that she had received credible reports of serious human rights violations by the Taliban, including summary executions of civilians and surrendering Afghan security forces. Independent UN human rights experts have accused the Taliban of carrying out reprisals, including hunting down people who had worked with the former Afghan government or foreign governments and forces.

“The Taliban should demonstrate their concern for the Afghan people by ensuring that humanitarian groups have full access to all those in need,” Charbonneau said. “The Taliban should recognize that if they govern by reverting to their infamous playbook of abusive treatment of women and girls and minorities, they will one day be held accountable.”
 

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