Afghanistan facing ‘catastrophic human rights crisis’, says UK representative to UN

Diplomat says there is evidence of ‘persecution of minority groups, harsh restrictions on women, allegations of forced marriage and using civilians as human shields’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 16 August 2021 20:56
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Afghanistan facing ‘catastrophic human rights crisis’, says UK representative to UN

Afghanistan is facing a “catastrophic human rights crisis” with evidence of Taliban abuses in areas they have seized power, including harsh restrictions on women and allegations of civilians being used as human shields, according to a top UK diplomat.

Addressing an emergency session of the UN security council, James Kariuki described the unfolding scenes in the middle eastern country as a “tragedy” as he made three key demands on the insurgents after the capture of Kabul.

The UK’s deputy permanent representative to the UN said the Taliban must cease all hostilities and ensure the “safe and orderly” departure of foreign nationals and those who wish to leave the country amid chaotic scenes at the capital’s international airport.

“Second they must commit to unequivocally not to harbour or give safe haven to terrorist groups which endanger other countries,” he added.

“And third the Taliban must honour their promises to protect and uphold human rights, including those of women, girls and minorities.”

However, Mr Kariuki said there was already evidence of Taliban human rights abuses in areas where the organisation had seized control, “including persecution of minority groups, harsh restrictions on women, allegations of forced marriage and using civilians as human shields”.

He warned: “If the Taliban continue to abuse basic human rights they cannot expect to enjoy any legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people, or the international community.

“Given the fragile security situation, Afghanistan is now facing a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Lack of access has masked the true scale of the problem. Half the population were already in need of humanitarian assistance at the start of the year, and the situation is much worse now.

“The Taliban must respect international humanitarian law and commit humanitarian organisations to continue their work with unhindered safe access to those in need.”

His comments came as Boris Johnson hosted a third emergency Cobra meeting on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, as UK and allied forces continued with efforts to evacuate foreign nationals and Afghans granted visas.

Appearing just moments before at the emergency UN session, Ghulam M Isaczai, the Afghan representative, said the fate of his country’s people “hangs in the balance”.

Mr Isaczai said he was “extremely concerned” about the the Taliban forces not honouring their “promises and commitments” made in their statements at Doha, Qatar, where an agreement was signed with former US president Donald Trump to withdraw military personnel who entered the country in 2001.

Afghanistan’s representative to the UN, Ghulam M Isaczai

The diplomat added: “We’ve witnessed time and again how Taliban have broken their promises and commitments in the past. We have seen gruesome images of Taliban mass executions of military personnel and target killings of civilians in Kandahar and other big cities.

“We cannot allow this to happen in Kabul, which has been the last refuge for many people escaping violence and Taliban’s revenge attacks.”

Mr Isaczai called on the UN to put pressure on the Taliban “to prevent further violence, prevent Afghanistan descending into a civil war and becoming a pariah state”.

“Kabul residents are living in absolute fear right now,’ he added.

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