Civilian casualties hit all-time high in 1st half of 2016: UN
KABUL (Pajhwok): At least 1,601 civilian have been killed and 3,565 others injured in the first half of the current year, showing a record surge of four percent compared to the corresponding period in 2015, the UN said on Monday.
Since 2009, 5,166 civilians have been killed or maimed in just the first six months of this year, almost one-third of them children. The total civilian casualty figures recorded between January 2009 and June 30, 2016 have risen to 22,941 deaths and 40,993 injured.
In its latest report, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said this year’s casualties included 1,509 children (388 dead and 1,121 injured) -- the highest numbers of children killed or wounded in a six-month period since 2009.
UNAMA’s Human rights team document the killing of 130 women during the period. Another 377 were injured, but the figures are certainly underestimated, according to the report, which was released days after one of the deadliest attacks in Kabul.
Taliban and other anti-government outfits were blamed for at least 60 percent of the non-combatants killed and wounded. The 80 people killed and more than 230 injured are excluded from the report. Suicide bombings and complex attacks now account for more civilians than are roadside explosions.
Similarly, casualties caused by pro-government forces rose by 47 percent, as the world body blamed Afghan forces for 22 percent of casualties. The US-led NATO troops caused 2 percent of civilian deaths and injuries. Seventeen percent could not be attributed to any warring party.
For the first time, the UN said, the nascent Afghan Air Force (AAF) caused more civilians than air strikes conducted by foreign soldiers. Despite more commitments by both parties, few concrete actions were taken to ensure protection of civilians, the mission noted.
UNAMA head Tadamichi Yamamotosaid platitudes -- not backed by meaningful action -- rang hollow over time. “History and the collective memory of the Afghan people will judge leaders of all parties to this conflict by their actual conduct,” he commented.
The secretary-general’s special representative stressed the report must serve as a call to action by parties to the conflict “to do all they can to spare civilians from the horrors of war.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein said: “The testimony of victims and their families brings into agonizing focus the tragedy of each one of the 63,934 people killed or maimed by this protracted conflict since 2009.”
Ground engagements continue to cause the highest number of civilian casualties, followed by complex and suicide attacks and improved explosive devices (IEDs). Explosive remnants of war disproportionately hit children, who comprised 85 per cent of the casualties caused by such devices.
During the period, 157,987 Afghans were newly displaced – a 10 percent increase over the same period last year. This brings the estimated total number of conflict-induced internally displaced Afghans to 1.2 million.
The report also documents other serious human rights violations and abuses, including the deliberate targeting of women in the public sphere, use of children in armed conflict, sexual violence against boys and girls, attacks on educational and health facilities, abductions and summary executions.
Human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and judges have also been targeted, in some cases being labeled by the Taliban as “military targets”. In one suicide attack against the media, on 20 January, seven Tolo TV staff members were among eight civilians killed and 30 injured.
The report also notes the results of an investigation into the bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in October last year, stressing that there remains a need for “a fully independent, impartial, transparent and effective investigation” with a view to assessing possible criminal liability.
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