US, EU and 20 nations condemn Taliban over ‘summary killings’

Countries denounce reported killings and disappearances of former members of Afghan security forces.

A Taliban fighter searches a car as they hold a checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 27, 2021 [File: Ali Khara/ Reuters]

The United States, the European Union and 20 other countries have condemned the Taliban over allegations of summary killings of former police and intelligence officers in Afghanistan.

The statement on Saturday came after Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report documenting the killing or disappearance of at least 47 members of the Afghan National Security Forces.

The countries said they were “deeply concerned” by the allegations and underlined that the “alleged actions constitute serious human rights abuses and contradict the Taliban’s announced amnesty” for former Afghan officials.

They called on the Taliban “to effectively enforce the amnesty for former members of the Afghan security forces and former Government officials to ensure that it is upheld across the country and throughout their ranks,” and urged prompt and transparent investigations into the reported killings.

The countries include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and Ukraine.

The Taliban took power in Afghanistan in August as the US-backed government in Kabul collapsed in the wake of American troops leaving the country.

The armed group, keen to gain international recognition, has pledged its rule will be different to its previous time in government in the 1990s, which included public stonings, limb amputations of alleged criminals and a ban on women’s education.

But the new government has continued to carry out violent punishments, and the United Nations has expressed concern about “credible allegations” that the Taliban has carried out reprisal killings since their victory.

In its report, HRW said Taliban leaders have directed surrendering security forces to register with authorities in order to be screened for ties to certain military or special forces units, and to receive a letter guaranteeing their safety.

“However, the Taliban have used these screenings to detain and summarily execute or forcibly disappear individuals within days of their registration, leaving their bodies for their relatives or communities to find,” HRW said.

The group said its research indicates the Taliban have killed or forcibly disappeared more than 100 former members of the Afghan security forces in the provinces of Ghazni, Helmand, Kunduz and Kandahar provinces.

It also noted that the Taliban had announced the establishment of a commission to investigate reports of human rights abuses, corruption, theft and other crimes but said the commission had not announced any investigations into any reported killings.

“The Taliban’s unsupported claims that they will act to prevent abuses and hold abusers to account appears, so far, to be nothing more than a public relations stunt,” it said.

The Taliban have repeatedly denied sanctioning attacks on former members of the security forces and in late November, it said it had formed a commission to purge “people of bad character” from their ranks.

In an audio recording, Taliban deputy chief and Afghan Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani appealed to “our brothers to cooperate with the commission and don’t protect or support any individual of bad character on the basis of personal friendship”.

No country has formally recognised the Taliban government yet, while billions of dollars in Afghan assets and funds abroad have been frozen, even as the country faces severe economic and humanitarian crises.

US officials held talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar earlier this week, and expressed deep concern over human rights abuses and urged the group to provide countrywide access to education at all levels for women and girls.

Shortly afterwards, on Friday, the Taliban released a decree on women’s rights saying women should not be considered “property” and must not be forced into marriage.