Human rights

Afghanistan: Taliban torture civilians in Panjshir

(New York) – Taliban security forces in Afghanistan’s northern Panjshir province unlawfully detained and tortured residents accused of being associated with an armed opposition group, Human Rights Watch said today. today.

Since mid-May 2022, fighting has intensified in the province as National Resistance Front (NRF) forces attacked Taliban units and checkpoints. The Taliban responded by deploying thousands of fighters to the province, who carried out search operations targeting communities they believe support the NRF. In search operations in other provinces, Taliban forces have committed summary executions and enforced disappearances of captured fighters and other detainees, who are war crimes.

“Taliban forces in Panjshir province quickly resorted to beating civilians in response to fighting against the opposition National Resistance Front,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Taliban’s long-standing failure to punish those responsible for serious abuses within their ranks puts more civilians at risk.”

A human rights defender who interviewed several former detainees and a source with direct information about Taliban detentions spoke to Human Rights Watch about the situation in Panjshir.

In early June, former detainees reported that Taliban security forces detained about 80 residents in Khenj district of Panjshir and beat them to force them to provide information about the NRF. After several days, the Taliban released 70 of them, but continued to detain 10 people whose relatives they accuse of belonging to the group, a form of collective punishment.

Former detainees said the district jail held nearly 100 others with alleged links to the NRF. None had access to his family or his lawyer. Others were held in informal detention centers.

International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, which apply to armed conflict in Afghanistan, oblige all warring parties to treat anyone in their custody humanely. People taken into custody must be promptly charged with a criminal offense or released. The protections of international human rights law also apply. Denying detainees access to a lawyer and family members is prohibited and increases the risk of torture and enforced disappearance. Collective punishment – the punishment of individuals for the alleged actions of others – is a violation of the laws of war and a war crime.

Human rights groups and local and international media have reported that the fate of some men arrested by the Taliban in Panjshir province has not been revealed and that some suspected of having links to the NRF have been you are. In some places the bodies of those killed were displayed as an apparent warning to others.

The NRF, led by Ahmad Massoud, is the main armed opposition group in Panjshir and neighboring provinces. It includes some fighters who had served in the former Afghan National Security Forces.

Taliban troops in Panjshir are under the command of Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, who said on May 21 that authorities would not allow anyone to “disrupt security” in the province. The Ministry of Defense and the General Directorate of Intelligence oversaw operations in Panjshir.

After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, their forces, including military and intelligence officers, committed numerous summary killings and enforced disappearances. There is no evidence that they held responsible the forces responsible for the abuses.

“Panjshir Taliban forces imposed collective punishment and ignored the protections detainees are entitled to,” Gossman said. “This is just the latest example of Taliban abuses in fighting in the region 10 months after the Taliban seized power.”