A new UN report revealed today that the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan continues to increase. « In the first six months of 2015, civilian casualties projected to equal or exceed the record high numbers documented in 2014 ».
The midyear Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, which is prepared by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Office, documented 4’921 civilian casualties (1’592 deaths and 3’329 injured) in the first half of 2015. This represents a 1% increase in total civilian casualties compared to the same period in 2014.
According to the report, 90% of these civilian casualties resulted from ground attacks, like « improvised explosive devices, complex and suicide attacks and targeted killings ». The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, denounces a situation in which civilians bear the brunt of the armed confrontation and have to live in « insecurity and uncertainty over whether a trip to a bank, a tailoring class, to a court room or a wedding party, that may be their last. »
He deplored the impunity given the numerous violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Afghanistan. These people’needs have to be fulfilled, urgently and he insisted on the importance of concrete steps made towards accountability in order, “to break this venomous cycle.”
If « Anti-Government Elements continued to cause the most harm despite a slight reduction in total civilian casualties » the rapport also points out that « civilian deaths and injuries caused by the Pro-Government Forces caused 15% of civilians casualties (15% from Afghan National Security Forces and pro-Government Militia and 1% from International Military Forces.) The report notes that this represents a 60% increase compared to the same period in 2014.
« Ground engagement between parties to the conflict caused 1’577 civilians casualties (379 deaths and 1’198 injured) – a 19 % decrease – yet remained the leading cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Similarly, improvised explosive devices caused 1’108 civilian casualties (385 deaths and 723 injured) – a 21% decrease – while remaining the second leading cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. »
The reason of this increase in civilian casualties has to be found in suicides, complex attacks and targeted killings. « Suicide and complex attacks executed by Anti-Government Elements caused 183 deaths and 839 injured, a 78% increase compared to the first six month of 2014. Civilian casualties from targeted killings increased by 57 %, causing 440 death and 259 injured, and became the leading cause of civilian deaths. »
Nicholas Haysom, head of UNAMA said: «Afghan civilians have suffered far too long from this destructive conflict. The devastating consequences of this violence against civilians as documented in this report should serve to strengthen the broad conviction that peace is urgently needed. » He asks, until peace is achieved, « All parties to the conflict must fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law to minimize the impact of the conflict on civilians. »
Danielle Bell, UNAMA director of Human Rights admitted that: « this year, UNAMA recorded the highest number of children and women casualties compared to the same period in previous years. All parties to the conflict must undertake stronger measures to protect civilians from harm. When the conflict kills or maims a mother, child, sister or brother, the repercussions for families and communities are devastating and long lasting. »
Those organizations make the following recommendations:
*Cease the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian locations, including places of worship and culture, civilian Government offices and aid workers.
*Cease carrying out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.
*Cease firing mortars, rockets and grenades from and into civilian-populated areas.
*Cease the use of IEDs, particularly suicide and complex attacks, in all areas frequented by civilians, and stop using illegal pressure-plate IEDs.
Government of Afghanistan:
*Cease firing mortars, rockets and grenades into civilian-populated areas.
*Develop and approve a national policy on civilian casualty mitigation backed by an action plan with concrete objectives to prevent civilian casualties in the conduct of hostilities.
*Disband and disarm all armed groups and militia, and ensure accountability for those members of armed groups who carry out human rights abuses.
International Military Forces:
*Support the Government of Afghanistan in the development of a national policy on civilian casualty mitigation and support the implementation of an action plan to prevent civilian casualties in the conduct of hostilities.
*Continue to take steps to ensure that all international military or foreign intelligence and security forces operating in Afghanistan, either independently or in support to Afghan national security forces, take all necessary measures to protect civilians during ground and aerial operations.
To read the full report, please visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/HRReports.aspx