Switzerland raises human rights concerns with Afghan Taliban


Switzerland has raised concerns about human rights in Afghanistan, including about girls’ education, a government spokesman said on Friday.

The Taliban government has sent a delegate for a week of talks in Geneva in an efforts to boost outreach efforts as they seek to persuade foreign powers to officially recognise them.

The trip is also seen as a key step in restoring the aid money that has been cut off by western donors in protest of their takeover last August.

The delegation met with Swiss officials as well as the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups in the talks that touched on aid needs, security concerns and health care, according to participants who attended the closed-door talks.

In an emailed response to questions, foreign ministry spokesperson Paola Ceresetti said Switzerland had raised the issue of abductions and reprisals including the targeting of reporters, without specifically discussing the detention of two journalists reported by the UN Refugee Agency on Friday.

Berne had also raised the “systematic exclusion” of girls and women from education, politics, society and public life and said it expected girls to be back in school in March, she said.

Under their previous rule from 1996 to 2001, the hardline Islamist Taliban barred women and girls from education. They say they have since changed but they have been vague on their plans and high school-aged girls in many provinces have still not been allowed to return to school.

A handful of female activists gathered outside the delegation’s hotel earlier this week while a few dozen people protested outside the UN headquarters in Geneva on Friday, a police spokesperson confirmed.

Ceresetti denied that the talks amounted to official recognition of the Taliban and stressed that it was important to maintain dialogue. “We talk to everyone,” she said.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who met with Afghanistan’s acting health minister Qalandar Ebad earlier this week during the same trip, also called on countries and organisations “to continue with dialogue to support the people of Afghanistan”.

Geneva Call, the humanitarian group that hosted the talks, said that the Taliban delegation had signed a closing statement that pledged to promote humanitarian access, respect female health workers and help clear mines. (Source: CNA)