Shaharzad Akbar Chairperson for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission Remarks to the Human Rights Council
Chairperson for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
August 24, 2021
Remarks to the Human Rights Council
Madame President, Your Excellencies,
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this Special Session of the Council on Afghanistan.
I and many Afghans and the friends and allies of the Afghan people have been talking about the urgent need for the Human Rights Council to respond to the situation in Afghanistan for months. In May, following the horrendous attack on the girls’ school in Kabul that killed over 85 people, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission called on the UN and the international community to move beyond statements, to action, to save the lives of Afghans and prevent further atrocities. Specifically, we called for a Fact-Finding Mission to monitor and report, gather evidence of violations and abuses, and advance accountability. As millions of Afghans are suffering, the future of the country remains uncertain, fundamental rights of women and girls are being repressed in every village, town and city across Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands are fleeing the country, particularly ethnic minorities, human rights defenders, journalists, worried about Taliban prosecution and repression, the least this Special Session can do is to illustrate through actions to Afghans that they will not look away, that the world is committed to at least a credible, strong and well-resourced mechanism to document the abuses and act as a deterrent.
The draft resolution tabled today is a travesty. We have documented that the Taliban advances came with summary executions, disappearances, restrictions on women, media and cultural life. This is not ancient history. This is earlier this month and this is today. Women in Afghanistan are being turned down from their offices by the Taliban, universities have been asked to discuss gender segregation possibilities, women are required to be accompanied by male members of their family in public, media are not broadcasting music, journalists and activists are in hiding or in flee, former members of the Afghan National Security Forces are scared of the worst, the summary executions, house to house searches and information gathering has led to widespread fear, people accused of “theft” or other crimes are being “punished” in ways that undermine their human dignity without due process.
Additionally, as this Council knows, for the past 20 years and even before, Afghanistan has been the site of many war crimes. Hospitals and newborn babies have been attacked, school children blown up, media have been directly targeted, innocent civilians have been killed in airstrikes or illegally detained and tortured in night raids.
The response of this council to these abuses as the foremost international human rights body, can not be business as usual. Afghan activists on the ground, my colleagues on the ground, who face direct threats to their lives and the lives of their families, demand better, while they have everything to lose by putting this ask forward. To be frank with you, you are failing them. But now, today, not next month, not next March, you have the chance to redeem yourselves. Please take it. Please ensure this session has a credible and strong outcome. Please do not leave this to tomorrow or the next month. Many I speak to in Afghanistan already fear that they may not have a tomorrow. In our worst moment, we call on you to do better.