Afghan civilian casualties hit all-time high since 2009: UN
The numbers exceed the previous record levels of civilian casualties that occurred in 2014. The latest figures indicate an increase of four percent during 2015 in total civilian casualties from the previous year.
In the 2015 Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) called increased ground fighting in and around populated areas, suicide and other attacks in major cities the main causes of the collateral damage.
Nicholas Haysom, the secretary-general’s special representative and UNAMA head, said: “This report records yet another rise in the number of civilians hurt or killed. The harm done to civilians is totally unacceptable.”
He urged parties to the conflict to take concrete action to protect civilians and put a stop to the killing and maiming of non-combatants in 2016. Ground engagements caused the highest number of civilian casualties.
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide and complex attacks. ground engagements were the second biggest killer of civilians, followed by targeted and deliberate killings, according to the report.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said: “The people of Afghanistan continue to suffer brutal and unprincipled attacks that are forbidden under international law.”
While deploring the casualties continued to happen with almost complete impunity, Hussein called for holding the perpetrators responsible. The international community to ensure the protection of civilian rights.
The report blamed the insurgents for 62 percent of civilian casualties, despite a 10 percent reduction from 2014. The rebels increased the use of tactics that indiscriminately cause civilian harm, including targeted killings, suicide attacks, as well as pressure-plate IEDs.
Pro-government forces caused 17 percent of civilian casualties -- 14 percent from Afghan security personnel, two percent from international troops and one percent from pro-government armed groups. The report documents increased civilian casualties caused by pro-government forces, including during ground engagements and aerial operations.
Fighting which could not be attributed to one specific party caused 17 percent of civilian casualties. Unattributed explosive remnants of war caused four percent and cross-border shelling from Pakistan into Afghanistan caused less than half of one percent.
Ground engagements caused 1,116 deaths and 3,021 injuries, indicating a 15 percent increase from 2014. IED caused 713 deaths and 1,655 injuries, representing a 20 percent decrease but still the second leading cause of civilian casualties.
Last year, UNAMA documented a 37 percent increase in women casualties and a 14 percent rise in child casualties. “In 2015, the conflict caused extreme harm to the civilian population, with particularly appalling consequences for children,” the UNAMA director of human rights said.
Unprecedented numbers of children were needlessly killed and injured last year, one in four casualties in 2015 was a child, added Danielle Bell. “Other children suffered the loss of parents and increasingly their mothers, sisters, and female role models – one in 10 casualties was a woman.”
The insurgents were asked cease the deliberate targeting of civilians and such locations, in particular journalists, human rights defenders, judges and prosecutors, civilian government officers, aid workers and places of worship.
UNAMA urged the fighters to avoid the use of IEDs in all areas frequented by civilians, complex and suicide attacks and firing mortars, rockets and grenades in populated localities.
Similarly, the government was told to cease the use of mortars, rockets, grenades, other indirect weapons, and aerial attacks in civilian-populated areas. The UN mission also recommended the immediate disbandment and disarming of all armed groups, militias and uprising movements.
The report called for investigating all allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and human rights abuses by national security forces and pro-government armed groups.
Foreign troops were assked to conduct an independent, impartial, transparent and effective investigation of the attack against the MSF hospital and make the findings public, as well as ensure accountability for those responsible.
UNAMA stressed a review of the current targeting protocols, operational policies and pre-engagement targeting criteria to prevent attacks against civilian locations, including hospitals.
A day earlier, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) expressed its concern over increasing civilian casualties as a result of suicide bombings and armed clashes in the country.
AIHRC officials said about 7,500 civilians, including children and women, suffered casualties during the first 11 months of the ongoing solar year in the ongoing conflict. They said 2,631 civilians were killed and 4,862 others were injured in violence during the period.
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