UN envoy to ICC: Prosecute Taliban for banning girls' education

A classroom that previously was used for girls sits empty in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec 22, 2022. [AP Photo]

The United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education said Tuesday that the International Criminal Court should investigate and pursue charges against the Taliban for their denial of basic rights to Afghan women and girls.

"The legal opinion we have received shows that the denial of education to Afghan girls and employment to Afghan women is gender discrimination, which should count as a crime against humanity, and it should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court," Special Envoy Gordon Brown told reporters in a video briefing.

Brown, who served as British prime minister from 2007 to 2010, made the announcement on the second anniversary of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

He said he is in contact with the ICC and has sent court officials the legal opinion. He urged The Hague-based court to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

Brown also urged Muslim nations to send a delegation to Kandahar, Afghanistan, to meet with Taliban Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada and his close associates to urge them to lift the education and work bans, which have no basis in the Quran or Islam. The supreme leader has shown no sign of reversing the edicts.

"The offer should be made that if schools are reopened under terms that allow girls proper rights and dignity, then the education aid that existed for 20 years that has been cut will now be restored," Brown said.

Brown echoed other U.N. officials who have said they believe there is a split in thinking within the Taliban regime on restoring education.

"We believe there are many people within the Afghan Education ministry itself, and of course many teachers, who want to get the girls back to school," he said.

The special envoy offered a five-pronged coordinated approach of applying pressure via the International Criminal Court; sanctioning individuals; sending a Muslim delegation to meet senior leaders; offering education funding; and showing through the continuation of online and underground schools that the regime cannot stop education getting through to its female population.

The Taliban have banned girls from attending schools beyond the sixth grade, blocked female students from accessing university classes, and banned Afghan women from working for the U.N. and other aid groups.

The United Nations has been working to persuade the Taliban to lift many of the 50 edicts, orders and restrictions they have imposed, including the April 5 ban on Afghan women working for the United Nations. About 400 Afghan women work for the organization in the country, and the U.N. has moved them to remote work to try to circumvent the decree.