Afghanistan's ruling Taliban on Sunday rejected Western allegations they were carrying out targeted killings of security officials linked to the ousted U.S.-backed government in Kabul, saying the Islamist group was fully committed to enforcing a general amnesty across the country.
“Any (Taliban) member found breaching amnesty decree will be prosecuted and penalized,” tweeted Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesman. “Incidents (of targeted killings) will be thoroughly investigated, but unsubstantiated rumors should not be taken at face value.”
On Saturday, the United States led a host of Western countries and allies in condemnation of reports that the Taliban have killed or illegally detained more than 100 former Afghan police and intelligence officers since returning to power in mid-August.
“We are deeply concerned by reports of summary killings and enforced disappearances of former members of the Afghan security forces as documented by Human Rights Watch and others," read a statement by the United States, the European Union, Australia, Britain, Japan and others, which was released by the U.S. State Department.
The alleged actions "constitute serious human rights abuses and contradict the Taliban's announced amnesty," the statement said. It urged the new rulers in Kabul to uphold the amnesty “across the country and throughout their ranks.”
Human Rights Watch released a report last week, saying it documented the summary execution or enforced disappearance of 47 former members of the Afghan National Security Forces, other military personnel, police and intelligence agents "who had surrendered to or were apprehended by Taliban forces" from mid-August through October.
The joint international statement demanded a prompt and transparent investigation into these incidents. "We will continue to measure the Taliban by their actions,” it said.
The Islamist group is under pressure to uphold commitments that it would protect human rights of all Afghans, including those of women, and govern the country through an inclusive political setup.
The international community has not recognized the Taliban government and Western countries have blocked the group’s access to billions of dollars in development aid as well as in Afghan central bank assets, largely held in the U.S. Federal Reserve, over human rights and terrorism concerns.
The financial sanctions have raised the prospects of an economic collapse in Afghanistan where millions of people are already in need of urgent humanitarian assistance due to years of conflict, high levels of poverty and a prolonged nationwide drought.