UN ends travel ban on 13 Taliban leaders

Taliban religious scholars attend a public meeting on economic welfare at a private hall in Kandahar on August 18, 2022. — Stock Photo AFP

The UN is set to end travel ban exemptions for 13 Taliban officials on Friday, pending agreement from Security Council members on a possible extension, diplomats told AFP.

Under a 2011 UN Security Council resolution, 135 Taliban officials face sanctions including asset freezes and travel bans.

But 13 of them have been granted travel ban waivers to allow them to meet officials from other countries abroad.

In June, the UN Security Council’s 15-member Afghanistan Sanctions Committee removed two Taliban education ministers from the exemption list over restrictions on women’s rights by the system of government.

At the same time, they renew the exemption for others until August 19, plus an additional month if no member objects.

Ireland opposed it this week, according to diplomatic sources.

China and Russia have asked for an extension, while the United States has asked for a reduced list of officials authorized to travel and the destinations they can go to.

The latest proposal on the table would allow just six officials to travel for diplomatic reasons, diplomatic sources told AFP.

If no member of the Council opposes it by Monday afternoon, it will come into force for three months.

In the meantime, waivers for the 13 officials end Friday at midnight.

Among the 13 are Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar and Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai.

They were instrumental in negotiations with then-President Donald Trump’s US administration that resulted in an agreement in 2020 paving the way for US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the Chinese mission to the UN, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, this week called the Western position linking the travel ban to human rights “counterproductive”.

Exemptions are ‘more needed than ever’, the spokesman said, adding that if reimposing a travel ban is all other Council members want to do, ‘it’s clear they haven’t learned any lessons “.

Despite promises to be more flexible after taking power in August last year, the Taliban have largely reverted to the harsh Islamist rule that characterized their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.

In particular, they have severely restricted the rights and freedoms of girls and women, calling on them to wear the burqa, effectively stopping girls’ education and systematically removing women from Afghan workplaces.

No country has so far recognized the government.

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