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American held by Taliban needs urgent medical care, UN expert says

GENEVA — The Taliban must provide Ryan Corbett, an American held in Afghanistan for nearly two years, with immediate medical care to prevent irreparable harm to his health or even his death, a United Nations expert said on Thursday.

“The Taliban must provide Ryan Corbett with medical treatment in a civilian hospital without delay,” said Alice Jill Edwards, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Corbett, an aid worker, has been held without charge in conditions “utterly inadequate and substantially below international standards,” she said.

“This is having a significant impact on his physical and mental health, which is declining rapidly,” Edwards added. She said she had raised the issue directly with the Taliban.

“Without adequate medical care, he is at risk of irreparable harm or even death,” she said.

The United States is in contact with Edwards’ office and welcomes efforts to call for more humane conditions for Corbett and others held by the Taliban, a spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations in New York said.

“We consider Ryan’s detention to be wrongful and we will continue to work securing his immediate release,” the spokesperson said.

Corbett and his family moved to Afghanistan in 2010. He worked with nongovernmental organizations and then started his own — Bloom Afghanistan — to bolster the country’s private sector through consulting, microfinance and project evaluation.

He left with his family following the Taliban takeover in 2021 but continued working with his organization, returning in January 2022 to renew his business visa.

Despite having a valid visa, he was arrested by the Taliban in August 2022 after he returned to pay and train his staff, his lawyers said. A German and two Afghans with whom Corbett was arrested have since been released.

The U.N. expert said Corbett has developed several medical problems, including ringing in his ears, and severe weight loss. He has also repeatedly expressed intentions of suicide and self-harm.

The United States has had no diplomatic presence in Kabul since it fell to the Taliban in August 2021 as U.S. troops pulled out after 20 years of war.


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