29 February 2024
Risk Level: Current Crisis

Populations in Afghanistan are facing systematic human rights violations perpetrated by the Taliban de facto authorities. Other armed extremist groups also continue to pose a threat to civilians.


Since Taliban forces effectively overthrew the Afghan government in August 2021, the Taliban and various armed groups, including the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K), have committed widespread and systematic human rights violations and abuses throughout the country.

The Taliban de facto authorities have imposed severe restrictions on fundamental rights and access to civic and public space. The Taliban have implemented restrictive policies and practices that deny women and girls their human rights and fundamental freedoms, perpetuating extreme forms of gender-based discrimination and flagrantly violating the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Sweeping repressive edicts and decrees targeting women and girls severely limit freedom of movement, freedom of opinion and expression, employment opportunities, political and public representation and access to education and healthcare. Women’s rights activists and human rights defenders have also faced targeted killings, enforced disappearances, incommunicado detention, attacks and harassment. According to a June 2023 joint report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, the Taliban de facto authorities may be perpetrating gender persecution and gender apartheid as they appear to be governing through systematic discrimination with the intent to subject women and girls to total domination. Afghanistan is the only country in the world that bans women from working for international organizations, including the UN.

The Human Rights Service of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) verified over 3,774 civilians killed or wounded from 15 August 2021 to 30 May 2023, mostly in deliberate attacks. Many of these attacks were attributed to ISIL-K, and over 1,218 of the documented civilian casualties occurred in attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on places of worship, which have been increasingly targeted since the Taliban took over. ISIL-K frequently claims attacks that target Shia Hazara, other Shia Muslims, Sufi Muslims, Sikhs and other minorities. The UN Special Rapporteur reported in September 2022 that attacks against ethnic and religious minorities appear to be systematic in nature and reflect elements of an organizational policy, likely amounting to crimes against humanity. Individuals from ethnic and religious minority communities have been arbitrarily arrested, tortured, summarily executed and forced to flee.

UNAMA has also documented evidence of the Taliban de facto authorities committing extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, incommunicado detention and torture and ill-treatment against specific groups, including media workers and human rights defenders. UNAMA has reported over 1,600 cases of human rights violations committed by the Taliban during the arrest and detention of individuals, nearly 50 percent of which are acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. According to UNAMA, from August 2021 to June 2023 the Taliban perpetrated over 800 instances of violations against former members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in all 34 provinces.

The people of Afghanistan are enduring a severe humanitarian crisis, compounded by the impact of sanctions and the freezing of state assets. On 22 December 2021 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2615, allowing for humanitarian aid to flow into Afghanistan without violating UN sanctions against the Taliban, which have been in place since 2011. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population need humanitarian aid to survive.

The Taliban were the de facto authorities in Afghanistan from 1996-2001 before they were overthrown by a North Atlantic Treaty Organization coalition of military forces. During two decades of insurgency against the internationally recognized Afghan government, the Taliban perpetrated likely crimes against humanity and war crimes while Afghan security forces and members of the United States (US) military and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) also committed likely war crimes. On 5 March 2020 the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorized the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate alleged atrocity crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan since 1 July 2002. On 27 September 2021 Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan announced his office would focus on crimes allegedly perpetrated by the Taliban and ISIL-K and de-prioritize other aspects of the investigation, including acts committed by Afghan national security forces, US forces and the CIA.


Since 1 January 2024 UNAMA has documented a series of arbitrary arrests and detentions of women and girls by the Taliban on the basis of alleged non-compliance with the imposed “Islamic dress code.” Women and girls, particularly those from ethnic and religious minority communities, have reportedly been forcibly taken into police vehicles and subsequently arbitrarily detained, held incommunicado and subjected to ill-treatment.

Ethnic and religious minorities, particularly the Shia Hazara, continue to be systematically targeted, including through regular attacks in Dasht-e-Barchi. Attacks with IEDs on minibuses in January killed several civilians.


The risk of further war crimes and crimes against humanity persists and impunity for past and ongoing violations has enabled crimes to continue. The continued targeting of ethnic and religious minorities indicates that the Taliban is likely unable or unwilling to protect vulnerable populations.

The Taliban de facto authorities frequently target journalists, civil servants, human rights defenders and those affiliated with the former Afghan government with violations that appear to be perpetrated on a widespread and systematic basis. Targeted attacks are largely unreported due to the Taliban’s continued crackdown on independent media and a closed civic space. There are currently no independent national bodies to document human rights violations due to the dismantling of key institutions, including the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Attorney General.

Efforts by the Taliban to exclude women and girls from social, economic and political spheres, including the institutionalized large-scale and systematic gender-based discrimination and violence against them, likely amounts to gender persecution, a crime against humanity. Continued restrictions on fundamental freedoms and a culture of impunity for human rights violations and abuses creates an enabling environment for more severe violations of international law and further atrocity crimes.


    • Decades of serious violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law, as well as impunity for those crimes.
    • Institutionalized large-scale and systematic gender-based discrimination by Taliban de facto authorities against women and girls.
    • Widespread and systematic targeted attacks perpetrated by ISIL-K and the de facto authorities against ethnic and religious minorities.
    • Lack of independent media and crackdown on civil society and human rights defenders.
    • Weakness of state structures to protect vulnerable populations and an unwillingness of the de facto authorities to uphold obligations under international law.


As the de facto authorities, the Taliban are bound by all existing international human rights obligations codified in the treaties to which Afghanistan is a state party, including CEDAW. They must uphold these obligations, including by halting all violations and abuses perpetrated by their officials and guaranteeing the equal protection and promotion of human rights of all people in Afghanistan, regardless of gender, ethnic background, religious belief or political affiliation. The Taliban should allow the international community to provide assistance to meet these obligations.

The Taliban must investigate patterns of human rights violations and take immediate steps to prevent future violations, including by holding perpetrators accountable. It is imperative that the Taliban cooperate with and facilitate access for the Special Rapporteur, UNAMA and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and organizations.

The international community should continue to pursue justice for likely atrocity crimes committed in Afghanistan, regardless of the position, nationality or affiliation of the alleged perpetrator. Ongoing investigations at the ICC should include the crime against humanity of gender persecution. All UN member states should ensure that UNAMA’s Human Rights Service is sufficiently resourced to carry out its full mandate.


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