20 Aug 2021
Afghanistan: International Troops Have Left, International Law Has Not.

With the democratically elected government of Afghanistan overthrown by force, and the Afghan people facing rule by a Taliban regime notorious for its record of massive human rights abuses, including torture and executions, the IRCT reminds Taliban leaders now in power of their continuing obligations under international law, including the Convention Against Torture.

Afghanistan ratified the CAT in 1987 and Article 29 of its Constitution prohibits torture and all “punishment contrary to human dignity”.

The IRCT also reminds all States now leaving Afghanistan of their continuing obligations under international law to prevent torture from taking place by providing international protection to, and taking all other measures they can to help, those individuals most at-risk of torture, which include people who worked with foreign military forces, international organisations, members of the LGBTQI+ community, and ethnic minorities.

Afghanistan: International Troops Have Left, International Law Has Not.

Afghan children photographed in August 2021 as the country returned to rule by the Taliban.

IRCT members in the region, including the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), are preparing to receive Afghan torture survivors to provide healing and rehabilitation through their health-based expertise and to document their torture in order to fight for justice and an end to impunity.

“Given that the Taliban poses profound threats to human rights defenders, life in Afghanistan for human rights defenders has become impossible. They need immediate attention of the international community’s awareness and protection,” HRFT said in a statement.

“All women are under threat because they now have to follow the rules of sharia and all young men are under threat because they will be forced to join the forces of the Taliban and if they refuse they are either tortured or killed,” HRFT Director Sebnem Korur Fincanci told IRCT.

“We cannot be optimistic about Taliban statements as they do not reflect the reality of their sharia law. We are so worried for the Afghan people. Those who do escape the country are met at borders with reluctance. We have to consider their right to life and their right to travel, to seek protection.”

In its first press conference since taking control of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul by force, the Taliban regime promised ‘safe passage’ to those who wanted to flee. However, Taliban militants control checkpoints leading to Kabul’s airport have been beating and whipping people trying to pass.

The Taliban spokesman also promised no revenge against any Afghans who they would consider their enemies, such as those who worked with US-led forces, international development agencies, or the previous Afghan governments of the past two decades.

However, there were immediate reports of the Taliban rounding up Afghans on a blacklist of people they believed worked with US-led forces and the previous Afghan administration. If arrests cannot be made, the Taliban will target family members and “punish them according to their own interpretation of Sharia law" the report by the Norwegian Center for Global Analyses said. During its previous rule of Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, the militants’ strict interpretation of Islamic law led to massive human rights abuses, torture, and summary executions. On 19 August Amnesty released a report documenting evidence of torture and executions by Taliban forces in July of civilians from the ethnic minority Hazara when they took control of the province of Ghazni.   

'The IRCT reminds all States now leaving Afghanistan of their continuing obligations to prevent torture by providing international protection to those individuals most at-risk.'

IRCT Secretariat

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