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Afghanistan has been besieged by conflict that has been the source of relentless human rights violations and abuses against the civilian population for decades. On 15 August 2021, the country started a new chapter, when the Taliban captured its capital Kabul, and overthrew the civilian government. The takeover by the Taliban marks a new era in the history of Afghanistan. The past 20 years had resulted in some progress on the enjoyment of human rights in the country, especially in relation to women’s rights as well as to the development of a more comprehensive legal framework in 2018. But the conflict also saw thousands of civilian deaths and the commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious human rights violations and abuses by all parties.
The regular use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment against conflict-related detainees notably persisted, in particular in detention facilities well known for their lack of compliance with international human rights standards, such as Kandahar. Systematic death threats, attacks and killings of human rights defenders and journalists were also rampant across Afghanistan even prior to the withdrawal of US troops. Since 15 August 2021, attacks have been on the rise without any sign of abating. Reports have emerged of large-scale house-to-house searches for human rights defenders, forcing them into hiding. Journalists have also been brutally attacked and tortured for reporting about protests in the country. Peaceful gatherings by women protesters who took to the streets demanding equality and freedom were violently dispersed by the Taliban in several cities, including the capital Kabul, where protesters were beaten with batons, sprayed with tear gas, threatened with guns and shots in the air.
Previously, Afghanistan had submitted its second periodic report to the Committee against Torture (CAT) in 2016, 20 years after its initial report. The following year, the OMCT and its partner organisation Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN) had submitted an alternative report on Afghanistan to the CAT. Key challenges were identified and the time and the CAT issued recommendations for reforms in order to prevent torture, fight impunity, and provide victims with redress.