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Taliban severely restrict rights in their areas despite reform claims: HRW

01 Jul 2020 1TV News

The Taliban in Afghanistan have imposed severe restrictions on rights in areas under their control despite claims of reform, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Tuesday.

Residents reported an inability to criticize or question Taliban actions, violations of the rights of women and girls, and severe limits on freedom of expression and the media, HRW said.

The Taliban’s widespread rights abuses in areas it controls raise concerns about their willingness and ability to keep commitments on rights in any future peace agreement, HRW said.

Rights abuses by both Taliban and government forces mean that the United States and other countries supporting the peace process should ensure that any agreement has strong human rights commitments and enforcement mechanisms, it said.

“The Taliban have rolled back some of their harshest measures in areas they control, but it remains difficult and dangerous for people to voice objections to Taliban authorities,” said Patricia Gossman, HRW's associateAsiadirector. “The Taliban appear intent on ruling by fear, without holding themselves accountable to communities under their control.”

According to HRW, while there has been progress on access to education for girls and women in Taliban-held areas, there has been little regard for rights to freedom of expression, information, association, privacy, or media freedom.

Although the Taliban officially state that they no longer oppose girls’ education, very few local Taliban authorities actually permit girls to attend school past puberty, and some do not permit girls’ schools at all, HRW said.

Social controls, embodied in “morality” officials who work for “vice and virtue” departments, operate in Taliban-held districts to enforce residents’ adherence to Taliban-prescribed social codes regarding dress and public deportment, beard length, and men’s attendance at Friday prayers.

Taliban officials have said the social restrictions reflect local community norms. However, while such restrictions exist in both government and Taliban-held areas, some residents, particularly younger people, have resisted these constraints as they seek greater freedom. Taliban officials have punished residents who engage in prohibited social behavior. The Taliban justice system is focused on punishment and largely relies on confessions, often obtained by beatings and other forms of torture, HRW said.

Residents of Taliban-held districts said that Taliban officials have not allowed them to air grievances or express concerns. The Taliban claim that they hold commanders and other authorities accountable for abuses, but in practice Taliban officials have seldom considered practices amounting to war crimes, includingunlawful attacks that have killed civilians, to be wrongful acts.

“The Taliban publicly claim that they don’t put civilians in harm’s way but have punished residents who complain about Taliban forces entering their homes to attack government troops,” Gossman said

. HRW said that peace talks which are expected to begin in coming weeks should address concerns about protections of fundamental human rights, including the rights of women and girls.

HRW also said that government forces have committed serious human rights abuses, including torture, and have often failed to protect women’s rights.

"Both the Taliban and current and former government leaders have been implicated in war crimes and other abuses. There is near total impunity for serious violations." “A future Afghan agreement will not only need to endorse broad human rights principles, but it will be critical for both the government and Taliban to demonstrate that they are willing to accommodate diverse communities, tolerate dissent, and protect fundamental rights, including women’s and girls’ rights,” Gossman said. “To hold the parties to their human rights commitments, explicit, detailed human rights guarantees and robust monitoring are needed.”

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