UN Says the Taliban Must Embrace and Uphold Human Rights Obligations in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The Taliban must embrace and uphold human rights obligations in Afghanistan, the U.N. mission in the country said Sunday on Human Rights Day and the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Since seizing power in 2021, the Taliban have erased basic rights and freedoms, with women and girls deeply affected. They are excluded from most public spaces and daily life, and the restrictions have sparked global condemnation.

The U.N. mission, highlighting the Taliban's failures in upholding rights' obligations, said it continues to document extrajudicial killings, torture and ill-treatment, corporal punishment, arbitrary arrest and detention, and other violations of detainees' rights.

People who speak out in defense of human rights face arbitrary arrest and detention, threats and censorship, the mission said.

"We pay tribute to and express our solidarity with Afghan human rights defenders, many of whom are paying a heavy price for seeking to uphold the fundamental tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: peace, justice and freedom," said Fiona Frazer, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Afghanistan.

The head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, said rights must be upheld to ensure the country's future prosperity, cohesion and stability.

The U.S. on Friday hit two Taliban officials with sanctions over human rights abuses in Afghanistan. Fariduddin Mahmood made decisions to close education centers and schools to women and girls after the sixth grade, said the State Department. He supported education-related bans on women and girls.

The second target of the U.S. sanctions is Khalid Hanafi, from the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

"Since August 2021, members of the MPVPV have engaged in serious human rights abuse, including abductions, whippings, and beatings," said the State Department. "Members of the MPVPV have assaulted people protesting the restrictions on women's activity, including access to education."

The Taliban condemned the sanctions. Their chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said imposing pressure and restrictions were not the solution to any problem. He accused the U.S. of being the biggest violator of human rights because of its support for Israel.

"It is unjustified and illogical to accuse other people of violating human rights and then ban them," said Mujahid.

The restrictions on women and girls are the biggest obstacle to the Taliban gaining official recognition as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.