ISLAMABAD (AP) — More than 200 extrajudicial killings of former Afghan government officials and security forces have taken place since the Taliban took over the country two years ago, according to a U.N. report released Tuesday.
The groups most targeted by the Taliban have been former army, police and intelligence forces, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
UNAMA documented at least 800 human rights violations against former Afghan government officials and security forces between Aug. 15, 2021, when the Taliban seized power, and the end of June 2023.
The Taliban swept across Afghanistan as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from the country after two decades of war. The U.S.-trained and backed Afghan forces crumbled in the face of the Taliban advance and former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
“Individuals were detained by the de facto (Taliban) security forces, often briefly, before being killed. Some were taken to detention facilities and killed while in custody, others were taken to unknown locations and killed, their bodies either dumped or handed over to family members,” the report said.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said in a press release issued alongside the report that it “presents a sobering picture of the treatment of individuals affiliated with the former government and security forces.”
“Even more so, given they were assured that they would be not targeted, it is a betrayal of the people’s trust,” Türk said. He urged Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers — the country’s “de facto authorities” — to uphold their “obligations under international human rights law by preventing further violations and holding perpetrators to account.”
Since their takeover, the Taliban have faced no significant opposition and have avoided internal divisions.
The Taliban-led Afghan foreign ministry dismissed the report, saying it was unaware of any cases of human rights violations committed by Taliban officials or employees.
“Murder without trial, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and other acts against human rights by the employees of the security institutions of the Islamic Emirate against the employees and security forces of the previous government have not been reported,” it said in a statement.
The report said former Afghan soldiers were at greatest risk of experiencing human rights violations, followed by police and intelligence officials. Violations were recorded across all 34 provinces, with the greatest number recorded in Kabul, Kandahar and Balkh provinces.
The majority of violations took place in the four months following the Taliban takeover, with UNAMA recording almost half of all extrajudicial killings of former government officials and Afghan security forces during this period. But rights violations continued even after that, with 70 extrajudicial killings recorded in 2022, the report added.
The report documented at least 33 human rights violations against former police officers in southern Kandahar province, accounting for over a quarter of all human rights violations against former police members nationwide.
UNAMA documented at least 14 instances of forced disappearance of former government officials and Afghan security force members.
On Oct. 2, 2021, Alia Azizi, the former head of a women’s prison in western Herat province, did not return home from work and her whereabouts remain unknown. Despite reportedly initiating an investigation into her disappearance, the Taliban have not released any information about her whereabouts, the report said.
The U.N. documented more than 424 arbitrary arrests and detentions of former government officials and members of the Afghan security forces while more than 144 instances of torture and ill-treatment were documented in the report, including beatings with pipes, cables, verbal threats and other abuse.
The Taliban initially promised a general amnesty for those linked to the former government and international forces, but those pledges were not upheld.
The failure of the Taliban authorities “to fully uphold their publicly stated commitment and to hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account may have serious implications for the future stability of Afghanistan,” the report said.
While the Taliban announcement of a general amnesty in August 2021 “was a welcome step, it continues to not be fully upheld, with impunity for human rights violations prevailing,” said Roza Otunbayeva, the head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan.
She urged the Taliban to show “”a genuine commitment to the general amnesty. This is a crucial step in ensuring real prospects for justice, reconciliation and lasting peace in Afghanistan.”
Jeremy Laurence, spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, told reporters that the Taliban said the matter of violations were most likely individual cases, such as personal revenge killings, and were not conducted by or on behalf of the authorities.
“The de facto authorities have often responded that while a killing may have occurred, it was a personal enmity or revenge case, and not carried out in an official capacity,” he told reporters in Geneva.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the chief Taliban spokesman, claimed that Afghanistan’s Taliban-government has followed through on promises of general amnesty and that the Taliban are seriously investigating “some personal and unknown cases of revenge” attacks.
The United Nations and others, “instead of understanding the realities of Afghanistan and seeing positive developments, are always looking for negative points,” he added on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Despite initial promises of a moderate administration, the Taliban have enforced harsh rules, banning girls’ education after the sixth grade and barring Afghan women from public life and most work, including for nongovernmental organizations and the U.N. The measures recalled the previous Taliban rule of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, when they also imposed their interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.
The edicts prompted an international outcry against the already ostracized Taliban, whose administration has not been officially recognized by the U.N. and the international community.
Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.