Human rights groups call tough Taliban restrictions on Afghan women ‘crimes against humanity’
ISLAMABAD (AP) – Two leading human rights groups on Friday called the tough restrictions the Taliban have imposed on women and girls in Afghanistan as gender-based persecution, which constitutes a crime against humanity.
In a new report, Amnesty International and the International Judicial Commission (ICJ) underscored that the Taliban’s crackdown on Afghan women’s rights in connection with “detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment” could constitute gender-based persecution as defined by the International Criminal Court.
Amnesty and ICJ’s report, entitled “The Taliban’s War on Women: The Crimes Against Humanity of Gender Persecution in Afghanistan,” cited the ICC Statute, which lists gender persecution as a crime against humanity.
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO troops were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from the country after two decades of war.
Despite initial promises of more moderate rule, the Taliban began enforcing restrictions on women and girls shortly after taking power, barring them from public places and most workplaces, and banning girls from sixth grade from education. The measures date back to the earlier Taliban rule in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, when they also enforced their strict interpretation of Islamic law, Sharia.
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The harsh decrees sparked an international outcry against the already outlawed Taliban, whose government has not been officially recognized by the United Nations and the international community.
In the report, Santiago A. Canton, the secretary-general of the International Court of Justice, said the Taliban’s actions were “of such magnitude, gravity and such a systematic nature” that they could be classified “as crimes against humanity of gender persecution.”
Both organizations called on the International Criminal Court to include this crime in its ongoing investigation into what is happening in Afghanistan and to take legal action. They also called on countries to “exercise universal jurisdiction” and hold the Taliban accountable under international law.
The report also accused the Taliban of targeting women and girls who took part in peaceful protests, arresting them, forcibly disappearing them and subjecting them to torture in detention. The Taliban also forced them to sign “confessions” or “agreements” not to protest again, the report said.
What is happening in Afghanistan is “a war on women,” which amounts to “international crimes that are organized, widespread and systematic,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty Secretary-General.
Without elaborating, she called on the international community to “dismantle this system of gender oppression and persecution.”
Amnesty has also documented cases of forced marriages of women and girls to Taliban members, and attempts to force them into such marriages. The report said those who refused such marriages “were subjected to kidnapping, intimidation, threats and torture.”
The report cites the case of a 15-year-old girl who was forced to marry a Taliban member despite her family’s objections in August 2021 in northeastern Takhar province, and that of a 33-year-old journalist and social activist who was coerced into marriage the following month married to a Taliban commander.
“We simply cannot afford to abandon the women and girls of Afghanistan,” said Canton of ICJ.
According to the report, the Taliban also committed human rights abuses against Afghan men.
Several monitoring groups have documented reports of “extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances and torture” of people linked to the former Western-backed Afghan government, which collapsed in the face of the Taliban takeover of the country.
According to the report, the Taliban have also targeted journalists, the LGBTQ community, human rights activists and ethnic minorities.
Amnesty and ICJ also sent a summary of the report’s findings to the Taliban-appointed Foreign Ministry in Kabul, requesting a response. Nothing was provided immediately, the groups said.
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