International Organization for Transitional Justice and Peace

Afghanistan Overview

Afghanistan has experienced many wars and violence in the last four decades that have left many victims. Before 2001, Afghanistan had witnessed devastating civil wars and repeated atrocities, the perpetrators of which had not been brought to justice.


Afghanistan once again became the site of lengthy battles, horrific terrorist assaults, war crimes, and human rights violations after the terrorist event of 9/11, which was meant to defeat terrorism and usher in peace, stability, and prosperity. According to a Watson Institute analysis of the human cost of the protracted conflict in Afghanistan from September 1, 2001, to the present, 176,206 people were murdered, of whom 47,000 were civilians, aid workers, journalists, or media personnel.


Following the 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan has seen gruesome atrocities, suicide attacks, and attacks on hotels, mosques, public roadways, civic institutions, towns, and places. Journalists, social-political activists, and human rights advocates have all been targeted for death regularly.


Human Rights Watch revealed in 2017 that it had captured the Taliban group’s atrocities, which included several suicide bombs and other planned assaults on thousands of civilians, including judges, legislators, tribal elders, and journalists. These persons have been the target of suicide bombings or Taliban-related vehicles and building explosives.


The Afghan government also published a short list of major terrorist attacks by the Taliban group that were carried out in Afghanistan between 2014 and 2019, which included deliberate attacks on mosques, health centers, sports fields, wedding ceremonies, funeral prayers, gatherings of religious scholars, People’s election gatherings and the Continental Hotel caused thousands of civilians, including children and women, to be killed and injured.


In the Afghanistan long war, some types of humanitarian and combat crimes have been heard, including the beheading of a 12-year-old child in Kandahar in 2013, the hostage-taking of passengers on the highways, the truck bomb attack in the Zanbaq square of Kabul city, which left nearly 600 dead and wounded. Massacre of babies and mothers at the Dasht Barchi Women’s Hospital, a suicide attack at the Wazir Muhammad Akbar Khan mosque in Kabul, a suicide attack on female students of Seyed al-Shahda School, an attack on the students of Kaj Education Center, and dozens of other bloody attacks, which are called war crimes and crimes against humanity, for which groups such as the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and ISIS Khorasan have taken responsibility for a number of them.


As defined by the Rome Statute, numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity resulted from the Taliban’s protracted conflict in Afghanistan. The deliberate targeting of people, objects, units, or vehicles that have been used to deliver humanitarian aid, educational and cultural institutions, places of worship, or any other extreme physical restriction that violates the fundamental principles of international law; cruel treatment or violation of human dignity; the issuing of sentences and execution outside the parameters of the applicable criminal laws (field court);


According to reports, the critical actors in Afghanistan’s protracted battles and the main perpetrators of civilian fatalities are the Taliban and ISIS, the Afghan government, and the Western coalition troops battling terrorism and assisting the Afghan government. The Taliban and their affiliated terrorist organizations have occasionally made public claims of responsibility for many of the assaults and atrocities perpetrated in Afghanistan. They are considered designated terrorist organizations that are sought by both the Afghan government and Western forces.


It is widely reported that ISIS has continued to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity, including against the Hazara ethnic minority in Afghanistan. In recent years, numerous brutal attacks have been attributed to ISIS on religious, educational, and health facilities, causing significant harm and loss of life.


Afghanistan again experienced numerous crimes against humanity, war crimes, and many human rights violations after the Taliban overthrew the Afghan government on August 15, 2001. These violations included the right to education and employment for women. The Taliban in Afghanistan have been accused of committing numerous human rights violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to reports from international human rights monitoring organizations, particularly Richard Bennett’s writings as the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan. Women’s fundamental rights are frequently infringed. ISIS has carried out multiple terrorist acts against the Hazara community. Taliban members continue to repress, imprison, torture, and murder people.


In its 2023 World Report, Human Rights Watch also said that Taliban authorities have widely imposed laws and policies on women and girls that deprive them of their fundamental rights and suppress peaceful opposition. Although the economic and humanitarian crisis has worsened, the Taliban have almost entirely and openly violated human rights.


Numerous socio-political parties and their adversaries are also providing political and military opposition to the de facto Taliban administration. The Taliban undertook significant efforts to seize regions and cities after arriving in Afghanistan. The findings of the monitoring institutions reveal that despite having issued a decree of general amnesty, they disregarded it and, in some cases, retaliated by detaining, torturing, or killing members of the prior administration, particularly the security and defense forces. Before, protesters and activists attacked. They also shot the national resistance front fighters held as prisoners of war; their recordings were extensively circulated and verified.


However, numerous reports of war crimes, crimes against humanity, Hazaras genocide, and widespread human rights violations have been published in Afghanistan, none of which have been subjected to judicial investigation, and justice has not been applied to the perpetrators. The impunity of the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan has also brought the danger that the current resistance fronts against the Taliban will repeat the previous crimes of the Taliban to fight with the Taliban, which will undoubtedly lead to the mass killing of civil people and the destruction of public places, and the cycle of crimes will continue.


Afghanistan joined the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute) on January 13, 2003, based on Resolution No. 26/56 of the Supreme Council of Ministers of the Islamic Transitional Government of Afghanistan. The government of the Republic of Afghanistan approved the Rome Statute in its internal laws and published it in its official gazette in 2019. The head of the International Court of Justice announced for the first time in 2017 that he wanted to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. Still, this request was rejected by the court’s judges. The court recently announced again in 2022 that it wants to start its investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, mainly committed by the Taliban and ISIS. But in practice, no significant work has been done, and the rights of war victims have not been provided.


In the last two decades, the pre-Taliban government of Afghanistan has not initiated any significant investigation or initial legal and judicial measures regarding war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan. To preserve the dignity and reputation of its judicial institutions, the pre-Taliban government of Afghanistan has sometimes assured the International Criminal Court of its ability and actions in the preliminary investigations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.


However, it has not yet implemented any crucial and valuable steps. In addition to not punishing individuals responsible for suicide bombings and explosions in Afghan prisons, thousands of convicts and those found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity were freed from the nation’s jails as a consequence of US discussions with the Taliban in Doha in 2021.


After August 15, 2021, the de facto Afghan government led by the Taliban dominated Afghanistan. Former Taliban warlords and commanders are now high-ranking members of the de facto Afghan government. They have no desire or integrity to cooperate in the initial investigation of international crimes in Afghanistan. However, now that the situation is peaceful and Taliban leaders and members can travel internationally, the International Criminal Court can prosecute Taliban war criminals and warring parties regardless of their position in the de facto government.


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