UN rights chief urges action to prevent ‘disastrous consequences’ for Afghans

GENEVA (AA): The UN human rights chief on Tuesday called on countries to take action to prevent “disastrous consequences” for people of Afghanistan, warning that reports of violations could amount to war crimes.

“Failure to stem the rising violence and commission of human rights violations and abuses is having disastrous consequences for the people of Afghanistan,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned in a statement read out at a news conference in Geneva.

She cited “urban warfare” in which scores of civilians have been killed.

“We have seen it before, too many times. Since 9 July, in four cities alone in Afghanistan – Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, Herat, and Kunduz – at least 183 civilians have been killed and 1,181 injured, including children.

“These are just the civilian casualties we have managed to document – the real figures will be much higher,” said Bachelet.

The rights chief urged those in the conflict to stop fighting to prevent more bloodshed.

“The Taliban must cease their military operations in cities. Unless all parties return to the negotiating table and reach a peaceful settlement, the already atrocious situation for so many Afghans will become much worse,” said the UN rights chief.

‘End fighting’

Bachelet urged all countries to use their bilateral and multilateral influence to bring the hostilities to an end.

“States have a duty to use any leverage they have to de-escalate the situation and reinvigorate peace processes. The fighting must be brought to an end,” she stressed.

She expressed particular concern about indications that the Taliban are “imposing severe restrictions on human rights in areas under their control, particularly targeting women.”

“People rightly fear that a seizure of power by the Taliban will erase the human rights gains of the past two decades,” the UN rights chief added.

“We have received reports that women and girls in various districts under Taliban control are prohibited from leaving their homes without a Mahram, a male chaperone.”

Such restrictions have a severe impact on women’s rights, Bachelet said, adding hampering a woman’s ability to leave home without a male escort also inevitably leads to a cascade of other violations of her and her family’s economic and social rights.

“Women, minorities, human rights defenders, journalists as well as others who are particularly vulnerable need particular protection. There are very real risks of renewed atrocities against ethnic and religious minorities,” she warned.

Ravina Shamdasani, a rights office spokeswoman, said: “It’s clearly no coincidence that these human rights violations have returned. The Taliban is imposing these restrictions on women.”

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