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A UN watchdog group has highlighted the possibility that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan could win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in October.
UN Watch tweeted a press release citing the Maldives’ intention to run for a seat on the Human Rights Council and noted that other candidates vying for the open Asian seats were South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.
The UN Human Rights Council is no stranger to controversy and having undemocratic and dictatorial members on the council is nothing new. Earlier this year, Russia was kicked out of the council by the UN General Assembly.
Other controversial members include China, Cuba and Venezuela.
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Afghanistan would occupy one of the fourteen seats in contention. The former Afghan government retains control of the permanent UN mission, but the Taliban has appointed one of its spokespersons to serve as ambassador, a decision left to a nine-member accreditation committee including China, Russia and the United States. The committee has yet to rule on the Taliban’s request.
UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer called it “two steps” for the Taliban to get a seat on the board.
The Human Rights Council’s scorecard on Afghanistan has more points against than in favor. The current Afghan government has not ratified the nine core international human rights treaties, nor developed or published a plan for implementing the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.
The UN convened an “urgent debate” on Afghanistan on July 1, addressing concerns over the Taliban’s control of the country. A report from the UN mission in Afghanistan released only a few weeks later confirmed the validity of many of the concerns raised following this change of power.
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The report notes that the Taliban has “limited dissent by suppressing protests and restricting media freedoms”, also noting the erosion of the rights of women and girls, including restrictions on the rights to access to education and work and participation in public life.
The report raised concerns that the Taliban are acting with “impunity” and that the nationwide economic, financial and humanitarian crisis has exacerbated the situation.
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“Education is not just a basic human right, but the key to nation building,” said Markus Potzel, the UN’s acting special representative for Afghanistan.
“It is high time for all Afghans to be able to live in peace and rebuild their lives after 20 years of armed conflict,” he added. “Our monitoring reveals that, despite the improvement in the security situation since (August 15), the Afghan people, especially women and girls, are deprived of the full exercise of their human rights.
At least 59% of the population needs humanitarian assistance, a significant increase of six million people since the start of 2021, according to the report.
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A spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Council pointed out that the Taliban were not represented in any UN body and that it was Afghanistan that retained a representative at the permanent mission. A spokesman for the General Assembly did not respond to questions about the UN’s position on the pending decision.
The United States withdrew from the Human Rights Council in 2018 over concerns that the group protected perpetrators of human rights abuses and was “a cesspool of political prejudice”. President Biden sought re-election to the council shortly after taking office, securing a seat for the 2022-24 term.