Prisoner Release and Human Rights: Need for Clarity and Consistency from all Parties

Prisoner Release and Human Rights: Need for Clarity and Consistency from all Parties


The AIHRC is concerned that the beginning of peace negotiations is being held up over the issue of prisoner release.  Acknowledging that peace is crucial  for advancing human rights and protecting civilians, it is important to also consider the rights and interests of victims, and the due process rights of those in detention. In particular, the Commission reiterates:

The AIHRC, based on customary International Humanitarian Law, considers that detainees convicted of war crimes or crimes against humanity, or currently facing judicial action for these crimes, should not be released in advance of, or even following, peace negotiations.

Further, in line with international best practice, any reduction of sentence for such detainees should be agreed in the course of peace negotiations, in accordance with international law, and must align with measures to ensure victim rights.  This cannot be reasonably done in advance of a full conversation on these difficult matters.

  • In order to prevent the issue of prisoner release from holding up the talks, it is critical for much more detailed information to be made available by both parties.  We thus call on both the Government and the Taliban to release full information on the status of conflict-related detainees that they currently hold.
  • The Commission remains concerned that any detainees that are granted early release must be monitored by an independent third party to prevent criminal activity, in particular that which may lead to further victimization of civilians. 


To the Government:

The Government has recently stated that 592 detainees on the list provided by the Taliban cannot be released due to the crimes that they have committed.

  • The AIHRC calls on the Government to provide more detailed information to the public on the exact status of these detainees:
  1. Have they been tried and sentenced in a court of law?
  2. How many are accused of war crimes, and how many are accused of crimes not related to the conflict?
  3. Have families of victims made claims against specific detainees? If so, what specific mechanisms and processes will enable implementation of haq ul’abd?
  • The AIHRC re-emphasizes the importance of the fair treatment of all detainees. While the Commission regularly monitors places of detention, we call on the Government to facilitate the Commission’s monitoring of the 592 Taliban detainees in order to assess conditions of detention and treatment.


To the Taliban:

  • The Commission is equally concerned for the conditions of persons detained by the Taliban.  It calls on the Taliban to provide information to the public on the number and status of all conflict-related detainees. 
  • The Taliban has reportedly released approximately 700 ANDSF detainees.
  1. What is the number and status of the remaining conflict-related detainees?
  2. The Commission calls for independent access to Taliban-held detainees as a matter of urgency, to assess conditions and to assure fair treatment.  This assessment might be done by the AIHRC or by another independent third party or by international experts.


In addition, it is known that those imprisoned face higher risks of catching COVID-19.  It is important that monitoring take place to ensure the well-being and safety of detainees held by both sides, that mitigation is done however possible to prevent infection, and that healthcare is made available.


Finally, the Commission refers the Government, the Taliban, and the U.S. to our letter of 2 March, 2020 in which the AIHRC posed a series of questions concerning due process, monitoring and verification and care of detainees. These questions remain pertinent, and we look forward to further information or discussion on these issues.  We believe that releasing information on detainees is important to advance the peace process and to gain public trust.