The United Nations has documented more than 1,600 instances of human rights violations against individuals detained by Taliban authorities, with nearly half of these incidents involving acts of torture and mistreatment, primarily carried out by police and intelligence agents, according to a report released on Wednesday.
The report from the U.N. Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) revealed that, in the 19 months leading up to July 2023, 18 individuals had lost their lives while in prison or under the custody of the police and intelligence agencies.
Since the withdrawal of foreign forces in 2021, the Taliban have been in control of and responsible for staffing the police and intelligence agencies in the country.
“In attempts to extract confessions or other information, detainees were subjected to severe pain and suffering, through physical beatings, electric shocks, asphyxiation, stress positions, and forced ingestion of water, as well as blindfolding and threats,” stated UNAMA in a press release.
Other reported violations included detainees not being informed of the reason for their arrest, a lack of access to legal representation, and inadequate medical care while in custody.
Approximately one in ten of these violations were committed against women, while journalists and members of civil society made up nearly a quarter of the victims.
In response to the report, the Taliban-led Ministry of Foreign Affairs disputed the accuracy of the reported violations, particularly concerning the number of affected journalists and civil society advocates. The ministry asserted that authorities and the judiciary were actively working to enhance oversight and ensure compliance with decrees issued by the supreme leader, which prohibit torture and the forced extraction of confessions.
While the U.N. acknowledged these decrees and prison access as “encouraging signs,” it called for further actions to address the ongoing situation.
These documented cases highlight the need for urgent, accelerated action by all,” stated Roza Otunbayeva, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA. “There is a pressing need to consider more engagement with the de facto authorities to end these practices.