Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network has published another of her insightful reports, this time into the Taliban's code of conduct (Layha in Pashto), using the much updated code to gain an insight into the organisation itself.
The Layha: Calling the Taliban to Account notes that the first version of the code appeared in 2006 as an attempt to consolidate the movement, inspire fighters and to curb their excesses. In the background was the fact that the organisation's image was being tarnished by corruption and abuse.
Later versions of the code, published in 2009 and 2010 illustrate the leadership's fears of fragmentation, concerns about the uncontrolled killing of suspected spies and the exploitation of jihad for criminal or material gain.
Clark notes that some clauses, such as those that permit kidnapping, are contrary to international law, while others, if applied, could reduce civilian suffering in the conflict. Added to this is the fact that the code is not enforced in some areas and attacks on civilians, for example, continue unabated.
However, civilian unhappiness with some of the clauses has led to revisions. For example, the 2006 version called on mujahideen to beat and kill recalcitrant teachers and burn their schools and have nothing to do with NGOs. These clauses were dropped in later editions.
Clark argues that the Taliban is very sensitive to charges that it violates its own code and often kills civilians. Journalists, she says, could find the Layha useful in helping to frame questions to put to the Taliban, for example in asking for explanations of fines issued by the Taliban, of ransom demands for prisoners or of attacks that kill civilians. She says it is important to ask more from the Taliban in terms of conduct that conforms with international human rights law.
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