Urgent petitions alleging torture and cruel treatment filed before UN Special Rapporteurs seeking immediate release of Ryan Corbett

Corbett has been held in a basement cell by the Taliban for 623 days and is deteriorating mentally and physically.

Washington, DC - Today, attorneys acting on behalf of wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Ryan Corbett, filed urgent petitions before the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and the UN Working Group for Arbitrary Detention, seeking the UN's help in securing Ryan's immediate release from Taliban custody.

Although contact with Ryan has been extremely limited since his unlawful arrest by the Taliban on August 10, 2022, the two petitions draw on testimonials of recently released detainees who came across Ryan in the Taliban’s underground prisons, and who have for the first time given insight into the daily horror of his captivity. The petitions include detailed descriptions of torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment by the Taliban, as well as the mission of his Taliban captors to convince Ryan that the outside world has forgotten him. Horrific details include: 

  • Individuals previously detained with Ryan have expressed sincere concerns about his physical and mental health, to the point that they fear he may die soon, due to medical complications, maltreatment, or self-harm. This underscores the concerns Ryan’s family raised publicly last month following their own call with him, in which Ryan told his wife that he had given up all hope of surviving his confinement due to the mental anguish he is experiencing. 

  • Ryan has regularly been threatened with torture and physical violence. The Taliban has threatened to beat him and have forced him to listen to the torture of other prisoners, in a prison cell where blood was visible on the walls. 

  • The Taliban have repeatedly lied to Ryan about his fate and other facts. For example, the Taliban would often assure Ryan and other detainees that they were being released soon, to no avail. They once told Ryan that the Afghans who had been arrested with him  were being tortured in a special facility because of Ryan’s actions. In reality, these men had been released. 

  • Ryan is seriously malnourished and has lost significant weight, suffers from blackouts and fainting episodes causing him to fall and injure himself, and experiences ringing in his ears and numbness in his feet, which have kept him awake. He has been hospitalized at least once during his detention after fainting and hitting his head. Having been detained in summer, his clothes are lightweight and the Taliban has refused to give him additional clothes, leaving him to face harsh Afghan winters without proper clothing or heat. Ryan’s bed has consisted of a small, worn mat on the floor for the duration of his detention.

  • Ryan has been held in a basement cell with almost no sunlight or exercise. Detainees have reported receiving mere minutes of sunlight over the course of a month.  He has also been subjected to “months” of solitary confinement.

  • Ryan is rarely allowed to shower or go to the bathroom, and when he has been permitted to bathe and use the restroom, the Taliban have handcuffed and escorted him along with other prisoners, forcing him to relieve himself in the presence of other prisoners.

Lawyers for the Corbett family, Ryan Fayhee and Kate Gibson, urged the UN to act quickly. “The details of the atrocities being inflicted on Ryan as told by his fellow detainees are difficult to even comprehend,” said Ryan Fayhee. Added Kate Gibson, “Today’s filings are an urgent response to the horrific conditions in which Ryan has been suffering for over 20 months. It would be hard to imagine conditions that would pose a greater immediate threat to the life of a detainee.”

The inhumane circumstances of Ryan's arrest and ongoing detention violate his fundamental rights under international law. This opens the door for the UN Mechanisms to investigate and take measures. As one of his former co-detainees said: “Ryan will come out in a coffin, if this situation is not resolved soon.” It is hoped that investigations and clear public statements from the UN about the unlawfulness of his situation will prompt the resolution Ryan so desperately needs.

“There is no ambiguity here: Ryan’s life is in danger. There is still time for the Taliban to do the right thing and let Ryan go before it’s too late,” said Anna Corbett, Ryan’s wife.

Mr Corbett is represented by Doughty Street’s Associate Kate Gibson, together with Nikila Kaushik, acting together with Ryan Fayhee of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

Ryan Corbett’s case has been widely covered in the media:

Media interested in covering Ryan’s case can contact Erin Pelton at 

About Ryan:

Ryan Corbett of Dansville, NY is wrongfully detained by the Taliban General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI). He has been held in a basement cell in Kabul since August 10, 2022. Since his detention his family has had 5 brief calls with him, totaling 44 minutes, and the Qatari protecting power has had only two Consular visits. Westerners released from the prison where Ryan is being held report that he is in poor health without access to adequate medical care.  Having been officially designated as wrongfully detained by the U.S. Secretary of State, the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA), Ambassador Roger Carstens, is overseeing USG efforts to secure Ryan’s release. 

Ryan entered Afghanistan on a valid 12-month business visa, returning to pay and train the staff of the business he started in 2017, Bloom Afghanistan. Bloom Afghanistan was a social enterprise focused on strengthening Afghanistan’s private sector. It focused in three main areas: 1) business consulting services, 2) microfinance lending (i.e. auto rickshaws and cows), and 3) monitoring and evaluation of international development projects. 

Ryan and a German colleague were detained by the Taliban with the only suspected reasons being their value as political leverage. The two Afghans who were originally detained with them were released in September 2022, and Ryan’s German colleague was released in December 2022. To date, Ryan has not been charged with any crime. 

The Corbett family first visited Afghanistan in 2006 and moved there in January 2010. They lived in Kabul and Jalalabad until August 2021, when they evacuated the country.