HRW: All perpetrators should be held accountable for their past atrocities

Five years ago, the Taliban carried out a car bombing in Kabul, which killed 103 and wounded 235 people. One of deadliest bombings of the 20 year long war, an ambulance packed with explosives was blown up in a busy street in the Afghan capital. Marking the fifth year since the attack, Patricia Gossman, the Associate Asia Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said that perpetrators of past atrocities in Afghanistan must be held to account.

The Taliban, she wrote, was not “alone in committing atrocities that year. Their rivals – groups aligned with the Islamic State – carried out numerous attacks targeting schools and mosques, killing hundreds of civilians, largely in Shia and Hazara communities,” 2008 she said, had been one of the deadliest years of the war.

That year, Grossman said, airstrikes by the US and Afghan forces at the same year resulted in the deaths of over 500 civilians. And Afghan police and special forces carried out enforced disappearances and torture, including sexual abuse of children, and reports indicated US and Australian forces committed “war crimes” in the country.

“Since taking power in August 2021, the Taliban have carried out summary executions and enforced disappearances, and have imposed policies that severely restrict the rights of women and girls. The Taliban have taken no steps to end these grave rights violations, let alone investigating or prosecuting those responsible,” Grossman said

It was critical, she asserted, that justice be sought for all perpetrators of serious abuses as “Directing efforts at only one party to the conflict, or ignoring the harm done to certain victims, ultimately denies justice to all.”

The Watson Institute in the Costs of War project estimated that 46,319 Afghan civilians were killed in the US-Taliban war between 2001 and 2022. The United States Institutes of Peace said in an article that this death toll of civilians is likely “a significant underestimation” and it could be much higher.