UN Report Reveals Massive Rights Violations Under the Taliban

A new report, released on Tuesday, October 24, by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) sheds light on large-scale detention and human rights violations under the Taliban, including torture.

According to the report, there are more than 17,000 people in Taliban prisons as of mid-September 2023. Detainee populations have seen a substantial surge between July and September 2023. The uptick beyond the Taliban’s initial plan to maintain an average of 10,000 detainees since mid-2022 has strained resources in their prison administration. As a result, the report states, that detainee treatment fails to meet the minimum standards, which includes limited access to adequate food and healthcare.

UNAMA’s findings reveal that detainees under the de facto Ministry of Interior and General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) routinely endure torture and mistreatment with no accountability for the perpetrators. Ill-treatment persists despite decrees and policies supposedly prohibiting such practices. According to the report, although the Taliban’s Office of Prison Administration demonstrated relatively higher compliance with legal safeguards, it faced challenges stemming from the increase in detention rates.

The report also documents human rights violations against the Hazara community. Between June and August, reports of violence against Hazara residents, including killings, property destruction, and agricultural crop damage in the Khas Uruzgan district circulated on social media. UNAMA verified several violations, leading to 16 arrests and pending trials.

Moreover, the Taliban imposed localized restrictions on Shia religious practices during Muharram, citing security concerns as justification. These restrictions included bans on religious flags in some provinces and limiting events to designated areas. The Taliban’s security forces also resorted to violence, UNAMA confirmed, against civilian Shia populations during their religious proceedings.

The report emphasizes instances of corporal punishment and the death penalty as human rights violations. Public corporal punishments, such as floggings, were administered against convicted individuals, often in public venues. Although no confirmed cases of the death penalty being carried out were recorded, unsettling rumours of planned stoning of alleged juveniles for adultery in Baghlan have persisted, with the accused lacking access to legal representation.

UNAMA also documented human rights violations against women, media workers, and human rights defenders, including their arbitrary arrests and detentions without clear grounds or due process. Defiance of the regime’s edict to close women’s beauty salons resulted in severe consequences, including violent raids, fines, arrests, and assaults by the General Directorate of Intelligence’s personnel. A peaceful protest against the ban in Kabul was met with forceful dispersal using water cannons and warning shots, leading to the arrest of four female protestors.

In the report, UNAMA once again has voiced its concerns over the safety and security of those formerly affiliated with the country’s security forces in the previous government. Despite public assurances of a general amnesty for former government officials and security force members, UNAMA documented widespread violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and forced disappearances.

In a relatively positive development, the report notes fewer civilian casualties during this period, largely due to a reduction in incidents involving improvised explosive devices. Before August 2021, the Taliban insurgency were reported indiscriminately using IEDs to target security forces and establishments, government offices, public infrastructure and civilian populations. However, cross-border security incidents resulted in additional civilian harm, including the loss of civilian life as a result of shooting by border patrol officers while attempting to cross into Iran as well as the clashes at the Torkham border with Pakistani Military Forces in September.

UNAMA’s report portrays a bleak picture of Afghanistan’s human rights situation, highlighting persistent violations and dire consequences faced by women, smaller ethnolinguistic communities, and those affiliated with the former government. As the world’s attention further moves away to other global crises, the deepening human rights crisis adds to the people’s suffering in the midst of exacerbating economic and humanitarian conditions.