A brief overview of Amnesty’s research on the Taleban

Amnesty International, Afghanistan / Asia-Pacific programme at the International Secretariat

We would like to give you a brief overview of our work on the issue of the Taleban and their human rights abuses.

We hope this will show that any suggestion that cooperation with any group or individuals has influenced our work on behalf of victims of religiously inspired abuses and violations is simply false.

Our latest statement on the Taleban and women’s rights appeared on 26 January 2010 (http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/afghanistan-human-rights-must-be-guaranteed-during-taleban-talks-2010012), with the lead:  “Human rights, including women’s rights, must not be traded away or compromised during any reconciliation talks with the Taleban in Afghanistan.”

We’ve focused on the Taleban’s violations of human rights law and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) consistently in all our statements on the topic, and often exclusively (for instance, on 28 October 2008: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/taleban-must-immediately-stop-targeting-civilians-afghanistan-20091028).

Most of our statements on IHL address both sides to the conflict, while explicitly recognizing that the Taleban are responsible for about 2/3 of all civilian casualties and that the Taleban, unlike NATO troops, pursue a systematic policy of targeting civilians (see, most recently on 2 December 2009, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/extra-us-troops-afghanistan-must-not-harm-afghan-civilians-20091202, in which we said:  “Amnesty International said that it recognises that anti-government groups, including the Taleban, are responsible for the majority of civilian casualties and injuries. The organization said that this does not diminish the responsibility to offer support to those injured by Afghan and NATO/US forces and to bring those suspected of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law to justice.”

In our discussions of the Taleban’s abuses in Afghanistan, we have highlighted the Taleban’s systematic repression of girls and women, for instance through attacks on schools and health facilities catering to girls and women.

In 2007, we issued a comprehensive report on Taleban abuses: All who are not friends, are enemies: Taleban abuses against civilians. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA11/001/2007

And we’ve continued our coverage of this issue,  by way of example, on 14 September 2009, in our coverage of election-related human rights issues, we pointed out that the Taleban were responsible for most attacks on civilians, particularly on schools for girls: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/comment-afghan-election-outcome-unclear-except-demand-human-rights-20090914.

Similarly, discussing the Taleban’s pre-election violence, we said:  “Anti-government groups, including the Taleban, have demonstrated a systematic contempt for the safety of civilians by targeting Afghans who want to establish their future through ballots, not bullets.” http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/afghanistan-kandahar-bombing-and-nato-clinic-attack-highlight-increasing.

In Pakistan, our work has consistently highlighted the abuses by Pakistani Taleban groups, in particular, their systematic repression of women and girls and of schools and health facilities providing assistance to women and girls.

We remain one of the loudest voices among human rights groups (inside and outside Pakistan) to raise concerns about the Taleban’s actions in Pakistan. See, for instance, our statement of 23 April 2009, demanding protection for Pakistani civilians subjected to the Taleban’s rule: http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/pakistan-people-buner-mercy-taleban-20090423.

We questioned a “peace deal” with the Pakistani Taleban that essentially abandoned Pakistani citizens, particularly women and girls, to the Taleban’s abusive practices on 16 February 2009, Pakistan: Swat peace deal threatens human rights, http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/pakistan-swat-peace-deal-threatens-human-rights-20090216

We’ve also maintained our campaign against the use of blasphemy laws and other mechanisms against Pakistan’s religious minorities. Our clearest statement on this issue came on 10 August 2009, when we said: “As Pakistan marks Minorities Day, Amnesty International calls on the government to take meaningful action to protect religious minorities which have increasingly been the target of religiously-motivated attacks and persecution. The rise in attacks against religious minorities comes against a backdrop – and in tandem – with rising religious extremism in the country. Amnesty International is concerned at the discrimination, harassment and attacks against all religious minorities, including Ahmadis, Christians, Shiite, Sikhs and Hindus, that are widespread in Pakistan.” http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA33/008/2009/en/955f51a0-acdc-4310-8866-0674ec5bf376/asa330082009en.html

We have also maintained this principled position in our work outside areas directly affected by the Taleban.

For instance, in Indonesia, we took the lead among international human rights groups in opposing efforts to introduce a strict interpretation of Shari’a law in Aceh province because it violated international human rights principles by including such provisions as stoning to death for adultery and caning of up to 100 lashes for homosexuality. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA21/021/2009/en/f995b7ff-8428-4e97-b3b2-d04adde7910f/asa210212009en.html

And in Malaysia, again we lead the international community in raising alarms in August 2009 about the extension of the Shari’a punishment of caning to a woman who drank an alcoholic beverage publicly (http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/feature-stories/malaysian-woman-caning-shariah-20090821). We also have been at the forefront of international efforts to protect lawyers and activists from religiously inspired harassment and intimidation for using the word “Allah”. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA28/001/2010/en/835c0199-095a-45b3-b2f5-4a77181e2734/asa280012010en.html

In conclusion, even a quick review of our work in the Asia-Pacific program clearly demonstrates that we have consistently held a principled line on religiously inspired violations of international law, particularly as it affects gender and sexual rights.