Taliban-controlled Afghanistan intends to seek seat on UN Human Rights Council: report

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A UN watchdog group has highlighted the possibility that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan could win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in October.

UN Watch tweeted a press release citing the Maldives’ intention to seek a sits on the Human Rights Council and noted that other candidates vying for open Asian seats include South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.

The UN Human Rights Council is no stranger to controversy and having undemocratic and dictatorial members on the council is nothing new. Earlier this year, Russia was kicked out of the council by the UN General Assembly.

Other controversial members include China, Cuba and Venezuela.

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Afghanistan would occupy one of the fourteen seats in contention. The former Afghan government retains control of the permanent UN mission, but the Taliban has appointed one of its spokespersons to serve as ambassador, a decision left to a nine-member accreditation committee including China, Russia and the United States. The committee has yet to rule on the Taliban’s request.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer called it “two steps” for the Taliban to get a seat on the board.

The Human Rights Council Afghanistan Dashboard has more points against than in support. The current Afghan government has not ratified the nine core international human rights treaties, nor developed or published a plan for implementing the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.

Afghan 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 28, 2019. 24, 2021.

Afghan 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 28, 2019. 24, 2021.
(Reuters/Denis Balibouse)

The UN convened an “urgent debate” on Afghanistan on July 1, addressing concerns over the Control of the country by the Taliban. A report from the UN mission in Afghanistan released only a few weeks later confirmed the validity of many of the concerns raised following this change of power.

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The report notes that the Taliban has “limited dissent by suppressing protests and restricting media freedom”, also noting the erosion of the rights of women and girlsincluding restrictions on the rights of access to education and work and to participation in public life.

Taliban fighters stand guard next to a Taliban flag during a rally where former Hazara Afghans pledged support for the country's new Taliban leadership in Kabul on November 11.  25, 2021.

Taliban fighters stand guard next to a Taliban flag during a rally where former Hazara Afghans pledged support for the country’s new Taliban leadership in Kabul on November 11. 25, 2021.
(Aref Karimi/AFP via Getty Images)

The report raised concerns that the taliban act with “impunity”, and that the national economic, financial and humanitarian crisis has exacerbated the situation.

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“Education is not just a basic human right, but the key to nation building,” said Markus Potzel, the UN’s acting special representative for Afghanistan.

Taliban forces block roads around an airport as a woman wearing a burka walks past in Kabul, Afghanistan August 28, 2019. 27, 2021.

Taliban forces block roads around an airport as a woman wearing a burka walks past in Kabul, Afghanistan August 28, 2019. 27, 2021.
(REUTERS/Stringer)

“It is high time 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 (August 15), the Afghan people, especially women and girls, are deprived of the full exercise of their human rights.

At least 59% of the population lives in need for humanitarian aid, a significant increase of six million people since the start of 2021, according to the report.

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A spokesman for the UN Human Rights Council pointed out that the Taliban were not represented in any UN body and that it was Afghanistan that retained a representative at the permanent mission. A spokesperson for the General Assembly did not respond to questions about UN position on the pending decision.

The The United States has moved away of the Human Rights Council in 2018 over concerns that the group protected perpetrators of human rights abuses and was “a cesspool of political prejudice”. President Biden sought re-election to the council shortly after taking office, securing a seat for the 2022-24 term.