The tactics of the Taliban and other insurgents are behind a 31 per cent increase in conflict-related Afghan civilian casualties in the first six months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which today published its Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.
The UNAMA statistics show that 55 per cent more children were killed compared to last year and six per cent more women. Casualties attributed to Pro-Government Forces (PGF) fell 30 per cent during the same period, mainly due to a 64 per cent decline in deaths and injuries caused by aerial attacks by Coalition forces.
“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.
Between 1 January to 30 June this year UNAMA's Human Rights Unit recorded 1,271 civilian deaths and 1,997 injuries. Insurgents 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 30 per cent from 2009).
The Human Rights Unit identified two critical developments that increased harm to civilians: the use of larger and more sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs); and an increase in the number of civilians assassinated and executed by insurgents, which 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.
Insurgent IEDs and suicide attacks killed 557 Afghans and injured 1,137 in the first six months of 2010 and IEDs alone accounted for 29 per cent of all civilian deaths in the period.
Air attacks by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) remained as deadly as ever, resulting in 69 of the 223 civilian deaths attributed to PGF in the first six months of 2010. This was, however, down by 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.
As expected, more than half of assassinations and executions occurred in the southern region, where more than 100 Afghan civilians were killed in such incidents, including teachers, nurses, doctors, tribal elders, community leaders, provincial and district officials, children, and civilians working for international military forces and NGOs.
“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.
The UNAMA Human Rights Unit made the following recommendations in the report:
• The Taliban should withdraw all orders and statements calling for the killing of civilians; and, the Taliban and other insurgents 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 their investigation and reporting on civilian casualties more transparent; strengthen directives restricting air attacks and the use of night raids; coordinate investigation and reporting of civilian casualties with the Afghan Government; 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; and, improve accountability including discipline or prosecution for any Afghan National Security Forces personnel who unlawfully kill or injure civilians.