The United Nations on Friday has condemned the Taliban for its “increasingly violent response” to dissent, including the use of live ammunition, batons and whips against peaceful protesters, weeks after the group’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan.
The UN human rights office (OHCHR) said it is crucial that those in power listen to the voices of Afghan women and men who take to the streets to press peacefully for their human rights to be respected – including women’s right to work, to freedom of movement, to education and political participation.
“We call on the Taliban to immediately cease the use of force towards, and the arbitrary detention of, those exercising their right to peaceful assembly and the journalists covering the protests,” OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said in a press statement.
Ms. Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva that on Wednesday, the Taliban issued an instruction prohibiting unauthorized assemblies.
A day later, they ordered telecommunications companies to switch off access to the internet on mobile phones, in specific areas of the capital, Kabul.
Protests have been taking place since Aug. 15 and were increasing in number until Wednesday evening’s instruction on the prohibition of unlawful assemblies, said OHCHR.
From Aug. 15 to 19, people gathered in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces to mark national flag-raising ceremonies. Credible reports indicate that during that period, the Taliban reportedly killed a man and a boy, and injured eight others with live fire, in an apparent attempt to disperse the crowds.
On Sept. 07, during a protest in Herat, the Taliban reportedly shot and killed two men and wounded seven more. That same day in Kabul, further credible reports indicate that the Taliban beat and detained protesters, including several women and up to 15 journalists.
On Wednesday, as a largely female group of demonstrators gathered in the Dashti-Barchi area of Kabul, at least five journalists were arrested and two severely beaten for several hours.
OHCHR added that during a demonstration in Faizabad city in Badakhshan province held by several women, including activists and human rights defenders, the Taliban fired in the air and allegedly beat several protesters.
A small group of women in Kabul were violently dispersed, as the Taliban fired shots into the air over their heads. That same day, women were violently dispersed during protests in Kapisa and Takhar provinces, and several women’s rights activists in Kapisa were detained.
Ms. Shamdasani recalled that peaceful protests are protected under international human rights law, including under Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Afghanistan is a State Party.
She said that “authorities must ensure a safe, enabling and non-discriminatory environment for the exercise of human rights, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
Blanket restrictions on peaceful assemblies constitute a violation of international law, as do blanket internet shutdowns which usually violate the principles of necessity and proportionality.
Journalists involved in reporting on assemblies must not face reprisals or other harassment, even if an assembly is declared unlawful or is dispersed.
“There is an obligation to ensure that any use of force in response to protests is a last resort, strictly necessary and proportionate and firearms must never be used except in response to an imminent threat of death or serious injury,” reminded the spokesperson.
She added that rather than banning peaceful protests, the Taliban should cease the use of force and ensure the freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, including as a means for people to voice their concerns and exercise their right to participate in public affairs. (Source: UN News)