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UN records hundreds of killings and rights violations by Taliban

Markus Potzel acting head of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, speaks during a press conference in Kabul on Wednesday. -- AFP
Markus Potzel acting head of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, speaks during a press conference in Kabul on Wednesday. -- AFP

KABUL: The Taliban have carried out hundreds of human rights violations in Afghanistan since seizing power last year, the United Nations said on Wednesday, including extrajudicial killings and torture.

"There's no denying that the findings of our report are extremely serious," Markus Potzel, acting head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told a news conference in Kabul.

The Taliban have routinely denied accusations of rights abuses since overthrowing the previous Western-backed government, but a UNAMA report released on Wednesday listed multiple accounts.

It documented 160 allegations of extrajudicial killings, 56 incidents of torture and ill-treatment, and more than 170 arbitrary arrests and detentions against former government officials and national security force members since August.

The most common methods of torture included kicking, punching and slapping, beatings with cables and pipes, and the use of electric shock devices.

It documented more than 200 instances of cruel, inhumane or degrading punishments -- including beating shopkeepers for not attending mosque -- and more than 100 cases of excessive use of force.

Since the end of the war, security has vastly improved across the country with a huge drop in civilian casualties.

But the Taliban -- notorious for their brutal reign of terror between 1996 and 2001 -- have sharply restricted the freedoms of Afghans, particularly women and girls.

UNAMA had 87 reports of violence against women and girls including murder, rape, suicide, forced marriages including child marriage, assault and battery, as well as two cases of honour killings -- none of which have been registered with the formal justice system.

Among the cases documented were a couple who were publically stoned to death after being accused of having an affair.

Fiona Frazer, head of the UN's human rights mission in Afghanistan, said "impunity prevails" in Afghanistan, and acknowledged there may be an under-reporting of allegations.

She said UNAMA was "particularly concerned" about the involvement of the Taliban's religious police and intelligence service in abuses.

UNAMA said more than 700 civilians have been killed and at least 1,400 wounded in attacks mainly attributed to the local Islamic State branch, as well as unexploded mines.

Senior government spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid rejected the report.

"No kind of arbitrary killings and arrests are allowed in the country. If someone kills or arrests arbitrarily, he is considered a criminal and will face the Sharia law," he tweeted. -- AFP

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