Human rights in Afghanistan are, unfortunately, a topic of controversy and conflict.
Afghanistan, in its current constitution, has an interesting and strong human rights framework. Since April 1987, it has been a member of the United Nations Convention against Torture. The Bill of Rights is enshrined in Chapter Two of the Afghan Constitution. The right to life and liberty is constitutionally protected, as is the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence of all.
In August 2021, the Taliban took power in Afghanistan with the announcement that they no longer wanted democracy. They proclaim the introduction of the Islam-based Sharia law that was in force in the country more than 20 years ago.
The Taliban is an Afghan group that was formed after the collapse of communist rule in 1992. It is characterized by extremely fundamentalist Islamic views. One of the goals of the Taliban is to introduce a very strict and stringent Muslim law in Afghanistan, which, inter alia, limits women’s rights to almost zero.
Sharia is an Islamic legal system that derives norms from the Koran and fatwas, i.e. opinions and comments from recognized Islamic theological authorities. In the simplest sense, it is a set of principles that should be followed by the followers of Islam. These are i.a. prayer, fasting and donations for the poor.
What does sharia look like in practice? The experience of 1996-2001, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan for the first time, may give some idea of this. In their interpretation, Shariah meant that girls could not go to school or study, and women were ordered to stop working. They were allowed to leave the house only covered from head to toe with a burqa and accompanied by a male relative. In practice, this meant that they could not go to a doctor on their own.
When the women tried to object to such treatment, they were severely punished by the regime for it. There were public flogging, torture and execution. Women’s rights activists fear it could happen again now.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Michelle Bachelet stated a few days ago that she had already received credible reports of serious human rights abuses by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Reports concern the collective executions of civilians and members of Afghan security forces who surrendered. In the context of human rights violations, she mentioned recruiting soldiers among boys, restricting women’s right to move, preventing girls from going to school, and brutally suppressing peaceful protests against the Taliban rule.
In their announcements, the Taliban assures that they will respect the rights of women and ethnic minorities, but in accordance with the interpretation of Islamic law, and that they will not take revenge on people who have cooperated with the governments of other countries.
August 19 is Afghanistan’s independence day – the people of the country celebrate this day as a sign of taking power from Great Britain, which previously controlled the country until 1919.
This year, however, Afghan people protested against the Taliban seizure of power. Demonstrations broke out in Kabul and several cities in Afghanistan (the Taliban was supposed to shoot at the crowd in Assadabadzi, and the shots were also said to be fired during a demonstration in Kabul).
Information about the Taliban “blacklists” has emerged, including US and non-US collaborators, and people associated with the previous administration or death squads.
According to many commentators, the Taliban have “priority lists” of people they want to seek. The primary targets are those who played a key role in the Afghan military, police and intelligence services. Family members of those on the list are also at risk.
The end of the evacuation from Afghanistan could be the beginning of an even greater humanitarian crisis. Only time will tell.
The European Bars Federation supports lawyers and Judges in Afghanistan and calls upon to respect the Rule of Law following international standards with respect for human rights.
The international community must immediately abandon its current position of non–belligerence and demands respect for human rights, standing ready to ensure that their voices can be heard.
FBE, which is the guardian of Human Rights, strongly condemns any actions aimed at breaking or not respecting them. Standing shoulder to shoulder with international human rights organizations, it firmly engages and will engage in various activities aimed at ensuring fundamental rights to all those from whom they are or may be taken away or restricted.