At the UN Human Rights Council, the EU Triumphs over the Afghan Rapporteur

October 08, 2021

Despite opposition from China and Russia, the European Union won its battle at the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday to establish a new special rapporteur on Afghanistan. The rapporteur will be in charge of monitoring the country’s human rights situation following the Taliban takeover and making recommendations for improvements.

This is an essential step to ensure continued monitoring, through a dedicated and independent expert, and to help prevent a further deterioration of the human rights situation in Afghanistan,” said Lotte Knudsen, the EU’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva.

The resolution establishing the 12-month post was introduced with the support of the US and the envoy appointed by the former Afghan government before the Taliban took power. It was easily adopted by the United Nations’ top rights body’s 47-member council. Pakistan, Venezuela, and Eritrea joined Russia and China in voting in favour, 14 abstained, and five voted against.

Some countries wanted a rapporteur imposed during the council’s special session on Afghanistan on August 24, but others, including Pakistan, were opposed.

Since seizing power on August 15, the Taliban has attempted to persuade Afghans and the rest of the world that their regime will be less brutal than the one that ruled the country from 1996 to 2001. In recent weeks, the EU and UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet have returned to the cause, requesting that the council establish a mechanism to monitor human rights violations in Afghanistan. The rapporteur is tasked with monitoring the state of human rights in Afghanistan and making recommendations to improve it. The expert will also be responsible for assisting the country in meeting its human rights obligations and providing support and advice to civil society.

The resolution also demands an immediate cessation of all human rights violations and abuses, as well as violations of international humanitarian law in Afghanistan. It also calls for the protection of fundamental freedoms, such as the right to peaceful assembly and expression.

Several amendments proposed by China, which wanted the rapporteur to investigate violations committed by foreign forces in Afghanistan, were rejected. The rapporteur, who will be chosen later, will be required to submit a written report to the council within a year. According to Amnesty International, while the resolution’s scope was narrower than they had hoped, it was an important first step toward serious council oversight of the situation on the ground.

Given the gravity of the country’s crisis, Amnesty’s secretary general, Agnes Callamard, hoped it would be a cornerstone in the quest for justice, truth, and reparation for the people of Afghanistan.

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