Afghanistan: Continued presence of UN mission essential to monitor and report on abuses

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) must extend the UN’s mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and the UN must supply the staff and resources it needs to monitor, investigate, and report on human rights abuses on the ground in the country, said Amnesty International, ahead of a 17 September vote on renewing the mission’s mandate, which is due to expire that day. 

Present in the country since 2002, UNAMA’s responsibilities include a pivotal role in monitoring the country’s human rights situation and providing oversight through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  

“The Taliban takeover poses grave risks to vulnerable groups, especially journalists, ethnic minorities, women and girls, and those who worked with the former government, foreign states, and contractors,” said Lawrence Moss, Senior Advocate for Amnesty International at the UN. 

“It is essential that UN human rights monitors remain on the ground and show support for the rights of Afghans at this perilous time.” 

In a resolution adopted on 30 August, the UNSC called on the Taliban to: 

  • Uphold human rights, including those of women, children, and minorities 
  • Ensure the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in an inclusive political settlement 
  • Adhere to the rule of law 
  • Allow Afghans to travel abroad, leave Afghanistan anytime they want to, and to exit Afghanistan via any border crossing, both air and ground 
  • Respect international humanitarian law, including protection of civilians

“To enforce its own expectations, the Security Council urgently needs the immediate monitoring and reporting function provided by the very mission it established,” said Lawrence Moss. “UNAMA should brief the Council at least monthly on the human rights situation in Afghanistan.” 

Amnesty International further calls on the United Nations to supply the additional staff and resources necessary for UNAMA to amplify its human rights monitoring. UNAMA’s international human rights staff are now out of the country, primarily in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and the work of its domestic human rights staff is greatly limited by fear of reprisals.  The UN has allowed humanitarian and political staff to remain in Afghanistan, but not its human rights monitors.   

“The UN should show support for the people of Afghanistan by returning international human rights monitors to the country, subject to the same security protocols as for humanitarian staff, and the UNSC should demand the Taliban respect the work of the UN’s domestic human rights staff and refrain from any reprisals,” said Lawrence Moss. 

Panjshir Valley reports underscore need for human rights monitoring 

Alarming reports are emerging from the Panjshir Valley, where fighting between the Taliban and resistance fighters is ongoing. BBC Persian has shared a video which claims to show a wilful killing in the area, while the BBC has further reported that the Taliban have killed civilians. According to sources interviewed by Amnesty International on Sunday 12 September, the Taliban have also been blockading food and essential supplies from entering the region. 

“An increasingly dire picture is emerging from the Panjshir Valley. This deeply disturbing footage and reports of other human rights abuses in the region underscore the immediate need for the international community to guarantee effective oversight of what’s happening in Afghanistan,” said Lawrence Moss.  


UNAMA’s mandate is reviewed on an annual basis by the UN Security Council – for further information, see here. For further information about its human rights work, see here

Amnesty International is also calling on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to establish a complementary Fact-Finding Mission or similar independent investigative mechanism for Afghanistan. A special session of the UNHRC in Geneva in August failed to authorize such a mechanism, and Amnesty International has joined more than 50 national, regional, and international organizations to urge UN member states to do so at its 48th regular session, which runs from 13 September – 8 October 2021.