Taliban-controlled Afghanistan intends to seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council: Report

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A United Nations monitoring group has highlighted the possibility of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan getting a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council in October.

UN Watch posted a press release on Twitter discussing the Maldives’ intention to run for a seat on the Human Rights Council, and noted that the other candidates vying for the Asian open seats are South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan.

The UN Human Rights Council is no stranger to controversy, and the presence of undemocratic and dictatorial members on the council is nothing new. Earlier this year, Russia was excluded from the council’s membership by the United Nations General Assembly.

Among the controversial members are China, Cuba and Venezuela.

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Afghanistan will occupy one of the fourteen seats for the election. The former Afghan government retains control of the United Nations permanent mission, but the Taliban nominated one of its spokespersons to take over the ambassador position, a decision left to the nine-member Accreditation Committee that includes China, Russia and the United States. The committee has not yet decided on the Taliban’s request.

UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer described it as “two steps” for Taliban for a seat In the Council.

The HRC scorecard for Afghanistan has more marks against it than for it. The current Afghan government has not ratified the nine core international human rights treaties, nor has it developed or published a plan to implement the UPR recommendations.

Afghanistan Ambassador Nasir Ahmad Andisha speaks during a special session of the Human Rights Council on the situation in Afghanistan at the United Nations European Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, August 24, 2021.
(Reuters/Denis Balibouse)

The United Nations held an “urgent discussion” on Afghanistan on July 1, to address concerns about the Taliban’s control of the country. A report by the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, released only a few weeks later, confirmed the validity of many of the concerns raised in the wake of this change of power.

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The report noted that the Taliban had “constrained dissent by suppressing protests and curbing media freedoms,” also noting the erosion of women’s and girls’ rights, including restrictions on the right to access education, the workplace, and participation in public life.

Taliban fighters stand next to a Taliban flag during a gathering where Afghan Hazara sheikhs pledged their support for the country's new Taliban rulers in Kabul on November 25, 2021.

Taliban fighters stand next to a Taliban flag during a gathering where Afghan Hazara sheikhs pledged their support for the country’s new Taliban rulers in Kabul on November 25, 2021.
(Arif Karimi/AFP via Getty Images)

The report raised concerns that the Taliban were acting with “immunity,” and that the nationwide economic, financial and humanitarian crisis had exacerbated the situation.

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“Education is not only a basic human right, but the key to the development of a nation,” said Markus Putzel, Acting United Nations Special Representative for Afghanistan.

Taliban forces block roads around the airport, as a woman walks holding a burqa in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 27, 2021.

Taliban forces block roads around the airport, as a woman walks holding a burqa in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 27, 2021.
(Reuters/Stringer)

“It is too late for all Afghans to be able to live in peace and rebuild their lives after 20 years of armed conflict,” he added. “Our monitoring reveals that despite the improvement in the security situation since (15 August), the people of Afghanistan, especially women and girls, are being denied the full enjoyment of their human rights.”

At least 59% of the population requires humanitarian aid, a significant increase of six million people since the beginning of 2021, according to the report.

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A spokesman for the United Nations Human Rights Council confirmed that the Taliban have no representation in any United Nations body and that Afghanistan maintains a representative in the permanent mission. A spokesman for the General Assembly did not respond to questions about the position of the United Nations on the pending resolution.

The United States withdrew from the Human Rights Council in 2018 over concerns that the group protects human rights abusers and has been “a hotbed of political bias”. President Biden sought re-election to the House shortly after taking office, and secured a seat for the 2022-2024 term.

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