Afghanistan: Urgent need to protect civilians following fresh attacks

News
April 9, 2013

Afghanistan: Urgent need to protect civilians following fresh attacks

A recent spike in civilian deaths in Afghanistan highlights the urgent need for all parties to the conflict to take greater precautions to avoid civilian casualties, Amnesty International said today.

On Monday, at least nine civilians were killed and 20 injured after a bus hit a roadside bomb in Wardak province, in the east of the country. It is believed the Taliban are responsible for the attack.

A day earlier at least 12 civilians, including 10 children, were reportedly killed in the eastern province of Kunar in NATO airstrikes launched during a drawn-out fire fight between international (ISAF) and Afghan forces and the Taliban.

“It is imperative that NATO/ISAF fully investigate all allegations of civilian casualties resulting from their operations and deliver remedies, including prosecuting those suspected of violations. They must also provide compensation before troops withdraw next year, to avoid a legacy of unresolved claims,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

“NATO/ISAF must demonstrate that, despite being the major multi-lateral partner to the Afghanistan government, it is not above the law in the conduct of its hostilities.”

The latest pair of attacks comes less than a week after another incident resulted in scores of civilian casualties.

On 3 April, at least 41 civilians were killed and more than 100 injured in an attack on an official compound in Farah province in south-western Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, despite previous public statements declaring the group’s commitment to reducing civilian casualties.

“All parties to the conflict must make a distinction between civilians and combatants,” said Truscott. “The laws of war prohibit indiscriminate attacks and deliberately targeting civilians for attack is a war crime.”

According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 2,754 civilians were killed in the conflict during 2012, with international and Afghan forces responsible for eight per cent of those deaths.

The Taliban and other insurgent groups were responsible for 2,179 civilian deaths last year, largely as a result of the indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices and targeted killings of civilians.

“NATO/ISAF states must accelerate efforts in assisting the Afghan government to create a mechanism to monitor and investigate civilian casualties and injuries and to ensure timely and effective remedies when such acts do occur,” said Truscott.

“Bringing security to Afghanistan hinges on all parties to the conflict – including the international forces – demonstrating respect for international human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as respect for the rule of law.”

Amnesty International reiterates its calls for the International Criminal Court to investigate suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity by all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan.