UN rights council creates Afghanistan rapporteur

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan, on  Oct 5, 2021.
Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Oct 5, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (AFP) - The European Union on Thursday (Oct 7) won its battle at the UN Human Rights Council to create a new special rapporteur on Afghanistan, despite opposition from China and Russia.

The rapporteur will be responsible for monitoring the rights situation in the country following the Taliban takeover, and make recommendations on improvements.

"This is an essential step to ensure continued monitoring, through a dedicated and independent expert, and to help prevent a further deterioration of the human rights situation in Afghanistan," said Lotte Knudsen, the EU's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

"The rights of women and girls are of particular concern to us. The actions of the Taliban directed against women and girls and the violation of their rights is highly worrying."

The resolution creating the 12-month post was tabled with backing from the United States and the envoy appointed by the former Afghan government before the Taliban seized power.

It was comfortably adopted by the 47-member council, the United Nations' top rights body.

Some 28 countries voted in favour, 14 abstained and five voted against, with Pakistan, Venezuela and Eritrea joining Russia and China.

Some countries wanted a rapporteur imposed during the council's Aug 24 special session on Afghanistan but others, including Pakistan, voiced reluctance.

Since taking power on Aug 15, the Taliban have tried to convince Afghans and the outside world that their regime will be less brutal than the last time they controlled the country, from 1996 to 2001.

Recommendations role

In recent weeks, the EU and UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet returned to the cause, asking the council to launch a mechanism to monitor human rights violations in Afghanistan.

The rapporteur is charged with following the developing human rights situation in Afghanistan and making recommendations to improve it.

The expert will also be tasked with helping the country to fulfil its human rights obligations and "offer support and advice to civil society".

The resolution also calls for an "immediate end to all human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in Afghanistan".

It also calls for respect for fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression.

Various amendments proposed by China, which wanted the rapporteur to also examine violations caused by foreign forces in Afghanistan, were rejected.

The rapporteur, to be chosen at a later date, will have to submit a written report to the council within a year.

Amnesty International said that while the resolution was narrower in scope than they had hoped, it was in important first step towards serious council oversight of the situation on the ground.

Amnesty's secretary general Agnes Callamard hoped it would be "a cornerstone in the quest for justice, truth and reparation for the people of Afghanistan", given the gravity of the crisis engulfing the country.