Guess what? A UN report noted that over the past six months, at least 274 men, 58 women and two boys were publicly flogged in Afghanistan under the Taliban and the UN strongly criticized the Taliban for carrying out public executions, lashings and stoning since seizing power in Afghanistan, and called on the country’s rulers to halt such practices.
- The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA has documented a range of forms of corporal punishment carried out by the Taliban authorities since 15 August 2021, including lashings/floggings, stoning, other types of beatings, forcing people to stand in cold water and forced head shaving.
- The report divided instances before November 2022, when it was announced officially as per Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada’s decree.
- Between 15 August 2021 and 12 November 2022, UNAMA documented at least 18 instances of judicial corporal punishment carried out by Taliban Provincial, District, and Appeals Courts. Ghor province had the highest number of recorded instances of judicial corporal punishment during this period.
- Within the 18 documented instances, 33 men and 22 women were punished, including two children (both girls). The vast majority of punishments, for both men and women, related to zina, adultery, or “running away from home” and all women and girls who were punished were reportedly convicted of such offences. In general, punishments consisted of 30-39 lashes for each convicted person. In some cases, however, as many as 80 to 100 lashes were given.
- Following the 13 November tweet, the report stated that there was a significant increase in both the number and regularity of judicial corporal punishment carried out by the Taliban authorities.
- Between 13 November 2022 and 30 April 2023, UNAMA documented at least 43 instances of judicial corporal punishment. Within the 43 instances, 58 women, 274 men and two male children were lashed for a variety of offences, including zina, “running away from home”, theft, homosexuality, consuming alcohol, fraud, and drug trafficking. As before, the majority of punishments administered related to convictions of zina, adultery and “running away from home”. In general, punishments consisted of 30-39 lashes per convicted person, however as many as 100 lashes were reportedly given in some cases.
- The report also noted another significant change during these two timeframes. It said that instances of judicial corporal punishment carried out prior to the spokesperson’ tweet were often conducted in Taliban court buildings and tended to be administered to between two and five people at a time.
- However, after 13 November 2022, there was an observable increase in the number of people punished in a single gathering and in the public nature of punishments, with the Taliban authorities favouring large capacity sports stadiums and drawing in significant crowds of local residents as spectators for punishments.
- “Corporal punishment is a violation of the Convention against Torture and must cease,” said Fiona Frazer, the agency’s human rights chief. She also called for an immediate moratorium on executions.
- UNAMA added that it has even recorded a number of incidents in which sentences of corporal punishment were handed down and imposed based on decisions by non-judicial Taliban authority members (including District Governors, Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice officials, Police and General Directorate of Intelligence officials) which appeared to exercise a quasi-judicial function.
Apart from this, the report noted that Taliban authorities have purportedly suspended the Constitution and initiated a review of laws passed under the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to assess their compliance with Sharia and Afghan traditions.
- As of April 2023, the outcomes of the review – and therefore, the legal status of laws adopted by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – remain unknown, it added.
- The Taliban foreign ministry said in response that Afghanistan’s laws are determined in accordance with Islamic rules and guidelines, and that an overwhelming majority of Afghans follow those rules.
- “In the event of a conflict between international human rights law and Islamic law, the government is obliged to follow the Islamic law,” the ministry said in a statement.
Back story: The first instance of corporal punishment recorded by UNAMA following the takeover occurred on 20 October 2021, in Kapisa province, Nijrab district. A woman and man convicted of zina (sexual relations outside of marriage) by the Taliban District Court and were publicly lashed 100 times each in the presence of religious scholars and members of the local Taliban authorities.
- In December 2022, Taliban authorities executed an Afghan convicted of murder, the first public execution since they took power the report said. The execution, carried out with an assault rifle by the victim’s father, took place in the western Farah province before hundreds of spectators and top Taliban officials.
- Since this first instance in October 2021, the Taliban authorities have continued to implement corporal punishment – both following judicial decisions and on an ad hoc basis.
- In a video message, Abdul Malik Haqqani, the Taliban’s appointed deputy chief justice, said last week that the Taliban’s Supreme Court has issued 175 so-called retribution verdicts since taking power, including 79 floggings and 37 stonings.
Why it matters? Under the first Taliban regime (1996 to 2001), public corporal punishment (including lashings and amputations) and executions were carried out by officials against individuals convicted of crimes, often in large capacity venues such as sports stadiums and at urban intersections. At the time, concerns were raised about the serious violations of human rights inherent in public executions and corporal punishment, with Taliban officials responding that such punishments were a “major deterrent” for criminals and the population at large.
Zoom out: Since their takeover of Afghanistan on 15 August 2021, the Taliban authorities have implemented corporal punishment and the death penalty.
- At the same time, they have gradually tightened restrictions on women, barring them from public spaces, such as parks and gyms, in line with their interpretation of Islamic law. The restrictions have triggered an international uproar, increasing the country’s isolation at a time when its economy has collapsed — and worsening a humanitarian crisis.
- Human Rights Watch commenting on the report has said that as long as the Taliban shows disdain for international human rights law, these barbaric practices are likely to continue.
- HRW added that governments engaging with the Taliban, including UN Security Council members, should press for an end to these abuses and make clear that international sanctions will remain in place and could be expanded if they continue.