The Taleban and other insurgent groups should be investigated and prosecuted for war crimes, Amnesty International said today, following the release of a UN report showing a rise in targeted killings of civilians in Afghanistan by anti-government fighters.
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan leapt by 31% in the first half of 2010, driven largely by the Taleban and other insurgents’ rising use of improvised explosive devices, and their increased targeting of civilians for assassination, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Attacks by the Taleban and other anti-government forces accounted for more than 76% of civilian casualties and 72% of deaths.
In the first half of 2010, the executions and assassinations of civilians by the Taleban and other insurgent groups increased by over 95% to 183 recorded deaths compared to the same time last year. The victims were usually accused of supporting the government.
“The Taleban and other insurgents are becoming far bolder in their systematic killing of civilians. Targeting of civilians is a war crime, plain and simple” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director. “The Afghan people are crying out for justice, and have a right to accountability and compensation.”
“There is no practical justice system in Afghanistan now that can address the lack of accountability. So the Afghan government should ask the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity that may have been committed by all parties to the conflict.”
Afghanistan is a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Amnesty |nternational has been told that tribal elders in various villages of Kandahar , Zabul, and Khost provinces have been fleeing rural areas, fearing systematic targeting by the Taleban.
“The elders are threatened and if they don’t cooperate with the Taleban they are killed,” said a Kandahar journalist. “Then the Taliban will just tell the village that the elder was an American spy and that is why he was killed.” The journalist asked not to be identified out of fear of Taleban retaliation.
Amnesty International is urging the international and Afghan forces to ensure they comply with their legal obligation to protect civilians from harm, especially those who provide them with information about anti-government groups or cooperate during military operations.
According to UNAMA, NATO-led and government forces caused 29% fewer casualties than the previous year, which has been attributed to policy changes placing greater priority on civilian protection, borne out in a 64% decline in casualties caused by aerial attacks.
Amnesty International welcomes the reported drop in deaths caused by NATO-led forces, but sounded a note of caution. “Pro-government forces were responsible for at least 223 deaths in six months, and NATO still has no coherent way of accounting for casualties,” said Sam Zarifi. “Special Forces in Afghanistan are still failing to be open about their actions when being called to account over civilian casualties.”
The UNAMA report singles out Special Forces in Afghanistan for acting without accountability, and calls for greater transparency over their operations, and for more information on forces are now operating under a new integrated command structure, so that casualties can be properly investigated and justice delivered to victims.
Amnesty International report focusing on the deaths of two brothers in a Kandahar night raid in 2008: ‘Getting away with murder? The impunity of international forces in Afghanistan ’
Amnesty International background paper and releases on the Kunduz airstrike of 4 September 2009
Amnesty International Report, 10 June 2010: ’As if Hell fell on me’: The human rights crisis in northwest Pakistan http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA33/004/2010/en
AFGHAN CIVILIAN CASUALTIES RISE 31 PER CENT IN FIRST SIX MONTHS OF 2010
10 August 2010 - Tactics of the Taliban and other Anti-Government Elements (AGEs) are behind a 31 percent increase in conflict-related Afghan civilian casualties in the first six months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said today in releasing its 2010 Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.
Among those killed or injured by the Taliban and other AGEs were 55 per cent more children than in 2009, along with six per cent more women. Casualties attributed to Pro-Government Forces (PGF) fell 30 per cent during the same period, driven by a 64 per cent decline in deaths and injuries caused by aerial attacks.
“Afghan children and women are increasingly bearing the brunt of this conflict. They are being killed and injured in their homes and communities in greater numbers than ever before,” said Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
From 1 January to 30 June 2010, UNAMA Human Rights Unit documented 3,268 civilian casualties including 1,271 deaths and 1,997 injuries. AGEs were responsible for 2,477 casualties (76 per cent of all casualties, up 53 per cent from 2009) while 386 were attributed to PGF activities (12 per cent of all casualties, down from 30 per cent in 2009).
Analysis by UNAMA Human Rights Unit identified two critical developments that increased harm to civilians in the first six months of 2010 compared to 2009: AGEs used a greater number of larger and more sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) throughout the country; and, the number of civilians assassinated and executed by AGEs rose by more than 95 per cent and included public executions of children.
“The devastating human impact of these events underscores that, nine years into the conflict, measures to protect Afghan civilians effectively and to minimize the impact of the conflict on basic human rights are more urgent than ever. All those concerned must do more to protect civilians and comply with their legal obligations not to attack civilians,” said Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights for UNAMA.
IEDs and suicide attacks killed 557 Afghans and injured 1,137 in the first six months of 2010. IEDs alone accounted for 29 per cent of all civilian deaths in the period, including 74 children, a 155 per cent increase in IED-related deaths of children in the same span in 2009.
Aerial attacks by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) remained the most harmful PGF tactic, causing 69 of the 223 civilian deaths attributed to PGF in the first six months of 2010 (31 per cent) and injuring 45 Afghan civilians. However, civilian deaths caused by PGF aerial attacks decreased 64 per cent from the same period in 2009, reflecting growing implementation of ISAF’s July 2009 Tactical Directive regulating the use of air strikes and other measures to reduce civilian casualties.
On a regional basis, civilian casualties grew the most in southern Afghanistan in the first six months of 2010. More than half of assassinations and executions occurred in the southern region, where more than one hundred Afghan civilians were killed in such incidents. Overall, conflict-related civilian deaths in the south increased by 43 per cent. Civilians assassinated and executed included teachers, nurses, doctors, tribal elders, community leaders, provincial and district officials, other civilians including children, and civilians working for international military forces and international organizations.
“This intensified pattern of assassinations and executions reinforced the widespread perception of Afghan civilians that they are becoming more and more the primary target in this period of conflict,” said Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
Releasing the 2010 Mid-Year Report, UNAMA underscored the 7 July 2010 statement of the United Nations Secretary-General that stressed ensuring greater compliance with international law by all concerned remains a “huge common challenge” in Afghanistan. Basic human rights and international humanitarian law principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution that apply to all parties to an armed conflict, requiring them to minimize civilian loss of life and injury must be reinforced at this critical period.
UNAMA Human Rights Unit issued recommendations in the report including:
• The Taliban should withdraw all orders and statements calling for the killing of civilians; and, the Taliban and other AGEs should end the use of IEDs and suicide attacks, comply with international humanitarian law, cease acts of intimidation and killing including assassination, execution and abduction, fully respect citizens’ freedom of movement and stop using civilians as human shields.
• International military forces should make more transparent their investigation and reporting on civilian casualties including on accountability; maintain and strengthen directives restricting aerial attacks and the use of night raids; coordinate investigation and reporting of civilian casualties with the Afghan Government to improve protection and accountability; improve compensation processes; and, improve transparency around any harm to civilians caused by Special Forces operations.
• The Afghan Government should create a public body to lead its response to major civilian casualty incidents and its interaction with international military forces and other key actors, ensure investigations include forensic components, ensure transparent and timely compensation to victims; and, improve accountability including discipline or prosecution for any Afghan National Security Forces personnel who unlawfully cause death or injury to civilians or otherwise violate the rights of Afghan citizens.