‘Credible reports’ of Taliban executions, says UN human rights chief

Michelle Bachelet says the ‘harrowing’ accounts contradict the Taliban’s claim to have moderated their hardline approach

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The UN’s human rights chief said on Tuesday she had received credible reports of serious breaches committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

They included “summary executions” of civilians and members of the Afghan security forces who had surrendered, Michelle Bachelet said.

In a speech, she urged the Human Rights Council to create a mechanism with which to monitor the militants' actions more closely.

The Taliban's treatment of women and girls would be “a fundamental red line”, she said in the council's emergency session, held at the request of Pakistan and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation.

Afghanistan's diverse ethnic and religious minorities were also at risk of violence and repression, she said, and cited reports of killings and other attacks in recent months.

“In recent weeks, my office has received harrowing and credible reports of the impact on civilians of violations of international humanitarian law, as well as violations and abuses of human rights, by the parties to the conflict,” she said.

Ms Bachelet urged the Taliban to honour its commitment to respect the rights of women, girls and ethnic and religious minorities, and to refrain from reprisals.

“The onus is now fully on the Taliban to translate these commitments into reality,” she said.

Ms Bachelet, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, stressed that contravening rights would “undermine the legitimacy of the perpetrators, both vis-a-vis the people, and also with respect to regional and international institutions and other states”.

Rights groups had called for the council to establish an international fact-finding mission to assess the situation on the ground and seek to document breaches, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, with the aim of ensuring accountability.

But a draft resolution presented on Monday to the council recommended only that Ms Bachelet present a report on the rights situation in Afghanistan during the main annual council session next March.

The draft provoked condemnation. Countries that otherwise would have pushed for the resolution to go further had held back for fear a stronger response could anger the Taliban, jeopardising evacuations, according to several diplomatic sources.

Updated: August 24th 2021, 2:45 PM