Afghanistan’s Taliban have announced fresh public floggings of convicts, both women and men, in defiance of renewed United Nations calls for the Islamist rulers to immediately halt the practice.
The Taliban’s supreme court said Monday a group of 22 individuals, including women, was flogged in a crowded sports stadium in Sheberghan, the capital of the northern province of Jowzjan.
Each was given between 25 and 39 lashes for alleged crimes, including adultery, gay sex, running away from home, drug trafficking and theft, the statement said. The court also reported on Sunday that 11 men and a woman were flogged in central Ghor province for committing similar crimes.
The de facto Afghan authorities have carried out floggings of more than 130 men and women in crowded sports stadiums in several provinces and the capital, Kabul, since mid-November, when the Taliban supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, ordered the judiciary to implement Islamic law or Sharia-based punishments.
The order also led to the first public execution of a convicted murder since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021.
Officials said the execution in the western province of Farah two weeks ago was in accordance with “Qisas [retribution in kind], an Islamic law stipulating the person is punished in the same way the victim was murdered.
The flogging and execution have been administered in stadiums in the presence of senior Taliban officials and members of the public. The top Taliban court in its statement Monday defended the application of Islamic Sharia to criminal justice, saying it is key to promoting "peace and justice” in the country.
UN call for halt
On Friday, a U.N. panel of independent experts said in a statement they “are deeply aggrieved” about the public execution and resumption of flogging in Afghanistan. The panel urged the Taliban to halt immediately what it decried as “inhuman” along with “distasteful and undignified” punishments.
“International human rights law prohibits the implementation of such cruel sentences, especially the death penalty, following trials that apparently do not offer the required fair trial guarantees,” the statement said.
The U.N. panel maintained that at all times, no matter the status of a person, the individual is entitled to dignity and respect.
The Taliban leadership has criticized the outcry over the application of Sharia to criminal justice as an insult to its Islamic religious beliefs and ruled out any compromise on them.
No country has yet formally recognized the male-only Taliban regime over human rights concerns.
The Islamist group previously ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 when Taliban authorities would routinely carry out punishments in public, including floggings and executions at sports stadiums before crowds of spectators.
The Taliban repeatedly assured Afghans and the world at large after seizing power that they would not bring back the polices of the previous rule to govern the conflict-torn impoverished South Asian nation.
The group has reneged on its pledges and placed severe restrictions on the lives and freedoms of Afghans. The Taliban have increasingly excluded women from public life and barred teenage girls from attending secondary schools.
Taliban polices have prompted some in Western capitals to link any engagement with the group to the empowerment of women, tighten sanctions and isolate Afghanistan further. Others warned disengagement could push millions of Afghans into starvation and extreme poverty.
“There is no alternative to dialogue,” Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt told an audience in Oslo last week while advocating continued engagement with the Taliban.
“We must not look away… No one will be safe if the country descends into civil war or becomes a base for terrorism. That would hurt both the Afghan people and the international community,” she warned.