Taliban Punishes Civilians for Alleged Ties to Opposition

Residents of Panjshir, a province in northern Afghanistan, have been wrongfully imprisoned and tortured by Taliban security forces, accused of collaborating with an opposition armed group.

National Resistance Front (NRF) fighters have been attacking Taliban groups and checkpoints in the province since mid-May 2022. The Taliban have retaliated by sending thousands of fighters to the province, where they have conducted search operations against populations they believe are backing the NRF. Taliban forces have carried out summary executions and enforced disappearances of captured militants and other detainees during search operations in other regions, which are war crimes.

According to Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch:

“Taliban forces in Panjshir province have quickly resorted to beating civilians in their response to fighting against the opposition National Resistance Front. The Taliban’s longstanding failure to punish those responsible for serious abuses in their ranks puts more civilians at risk.”

The NRF, led by Ahmad Massoud, is the main armed opposition force in Panjshir and adjacent regions. Some fighters from the old Afghan National Security Forces are among them.

Taliban security forces detained over 80 villagers in Panjshir’s Khenj district in early June, according to former detainees, and assaulted them in hopes of forcing them to disclose information about the NRF. Seventy people were released after several days, but the Taliban have continued to keep at least 10 people under the guise of collective punishment whose families they accuse of being Taliban members.

According to former detainees, the district jail housed almost 100 people with apparent ties to the NRF. None of them had contact with their families or lawyers. Others were incarcerated in makeshift detention centers.

All warring parties are obligated to treat everyone in their custody humanely under international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, which apply in Afghanistan’s armed conflicts. Individual punishment for the claimed actions of others is a violation of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime.

Gossman elaborated:

“Taliban forces in Panjshir have imposed collective punishment and disregarded protections to which detainees are entitled. This is just the latest example of Taliban abuses during fighting in the region 10 months after the Taliban took power.”

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