UN expert decries 'systematic' attacks on Afghan Shiites

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A UN expert warned Monday that Hazara and other Shiite communities in Afghanistan are facing what seem to be "systematic" attacks that could amount to international crimes.

Afghanistan's Shiite Hazaras have faced persecution for decades, with the Taliban accused of abuses against the group when they first ruled from 1996 to 2001 and picking up again after they swept to power last year.

Richard Bennett, the special rapporteur on the rights situation in Afghanistan, said Hazara and other groups have been "arbitrary arrested, tortured, summarily executed, displaced from traditional lands, subjected to discriminatory taxation and otherwise marginalised."

They are also the frequent target of attacks, including by the Taliban's enemy the Islamic State-Khorasan group, which considers them heretics.

"These attacks appear to be systematic in nature and reflect elements of an organisational policy," Bennett said presenting his first report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The attacks bear the "hallmarks of international crimes and need to be fully investigated," he said.

International crimes cover the most serious crimes of concern to the global community: war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Bennett, who began his work in May, warned that the rights situation in the country has deteriorated across the board.

"Afghans are trapped in a human rights crisis that the world has seemed powerless to address," he said.

Women and girls in particular have seen a "staggering regression" in their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights since the Taliban came to power, he said.

"There's no country in the world where women and girls have so rapidly been deprived of their fundamental human rights purely because of gender."

The overall humanitarian situation was dire, with nearly half the population facing acute levels of food insecurity, he added.

"Children in particular are facing extreme hunger and high risks of exploitation, including forced labour and marriage," he said.

Despite an amnesty, people who served in the Afghan army, security forces and government prior to the Taliban takeover in August 2021, still faced "arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances," he said.

Bennett called on the international community to do more to address the situation and to ensure accountability.