Taliban security forces in northern Afghanistans Panjshir province have unlawfully detained and tortured residents accused of association with an opposition armed group, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.
Since mid-May 2022, fighting has escalated in the province as National Resistance Front (NRF) forces have attacked Taliban units and checkpoints.
The Taliban have responded by deploying thousands of fighters in the province, who have carried out search operations targeting communities they allege are supporting the NRF.
During search operations in other provinces, Taliban forces have committed summary executions and enforced disappearances of captured fighters and other detainees, which are war crimes.
“Taliban forces in Panjshir province have quickly resorted to beating civilians in their response to fighting against the opposition National Resistance Front,” said Patricia Gossman, Associate Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, adding: “The Taliban’s longstanding failure to punish those responsible for serious abuses in their ranks puts more civilians at risk.”
Former detainees in early June had reported that Taliban security forces detained about 80 residents in Panjshir’s Khenj district and beat them to compel them to provide information about NRF. After several days, the Taliban released 70, but have continued to hold 10 people whose relatives they accuse of being members of the group, a form of collective punishment.
The former detainees said the district jail held nearly 100 others for alleged links to NRF. None had access to their families or lawyers. Others have been held in informal detention facilities.
The NRF, headed by Ahmad Massoud, is the principal armed opposition group in Panjshir and neighbouring provinces. It includes some fighters who had served in the former Afghan national security forces.
Taliban troops in Panjshir are under the command of Defence Minister Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, who had stated on May 21 that the authorities would not allow anyone to ‘disrupt security’ in the province.
The Defence Ministry and the General Directorate of Intelligence have overseen operations in Panjshir.
“Taliban forces in Panjshir have imposed collective punishment and disregarded protections to which detainees are entitled. This is just the latest example of Taliban abuses during fighting in the region 10 months after the Taliban took power,” Gossman said.