Contact: Sharon Singh, [email protected], 202-675-8579, @spksingh
(Washington, D.C.) – Amnesty International today condemned the deaths of 15 civilians in a Taleban attack on a hotel outside Kabul, saying the act is a shocking reminder of why the Afghan government must work with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring to justice all those responsible for crimes against humanity in the country.
On Thursday night, armed Taleban fighters stormed the Spozhmay Hotel in the Lake Qargha area near the capital, taking dozens of hotel guests and staff hostage. In the ensuing siege that lasted almost 12 hours, a fierce gun battle broke out between Taleban fighters and NATO and Afghan troops, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 people – including 15 civilians.
It was the most serious single loss of civilian life in Afghanistan since the Taleban attacked Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel a year ago, killing 22 people, again mostly civilians.
“The Taleban’s repeated brazen attacks targeting civilians shows an utter disregard for human life and may amount to war crimes,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s acting Asia and Pacific program director. “The ICC should investigate and prosecute such crimes, as well as crimes which may have been committed by NATO and Afghan troops.”
According to U.N. data, the Taleban are responsible for the vast majority of attacks on civilians in Afghanistan – out of 3,021 civilian deaths reported last year, 77 per cent were attributed to them and insurgent groups.
“The Afghan government and its international partners should not lose sight of human rights as they pursue reconciliation with the Taleban,” added Baber. “Any potential peace deal must not include impunity for war crimes and other grave human rights abuses committed by all parties to the conflict.”
On November 8, 2011, Taleban leader Mullah Omar ordered fighters to protect civilians and avoid targeting civilian objects. The order seems to have been nothing more than a propaganda ploy, as the armed group has increasingly used “soft” targets like hotels to maximize the civilian death toll in the past year.
Amnesty International has documented how the Taleban and other insurgent groups have increased their use of sophisticated suicide attacks in busy civilian areas – including hospitals, schools and mosques – and have regularly hidden behind civilians, knowingly putting them in danger.
The Taleban and other insurgents have also specifically targeted women, killing the headmaster of a girl’s school in May 2011, as well as female MPs and aid workers.
“Under international humanitarian law, all parties to a conflict must protect civilians and civilian objects while carrying out their military operations,” concluded Baber. “The Taleban are well aware of this, but their current strategy seems to rely on systematically violating these laws by jeopardizing civilians and maximizing the human toll.”
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.