HRW alarmed by rising casualties among children
KABUL (Pajhwok): A leading international human rights campaigner on Thursday voiced his grave concern over increasing conflict-related casualties among Afghan civilians, particularly children.
Phelim Kine, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW), expressed his alarm over the latest six-monthly United Nations report on a record increase in civilian casualties.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 1,601 civilian deaths and 3,565 injuries, signaling an increase of 4 percent during the reporting period from January 1 to June 30, 2016.
Deaths and injuries of children soared by 18 percent; one in three of all civilian victims of the armed conflict in the first half of the year were children. Although women remained highly vulnerable, conflict-related female casualties fellby 11 percent.
The Taliban were blamed for most civilian casualties. Despite Taliban’s claims, that protecting civilians was one of their main aims, the armed group continued to pursue a strategy of suicide bombings in civilian areas, it alleged.
PhelimKine,said the UNAMA report exposed the Taliban’s contempt for the most fundamental principle of international humanitarian law, or the laws of war: The prohibition of deliberate attacks on civilians.
“More shocking is that civilian deaths and injuries attributed to the Afghan armed forces and other pro-government forces, primarily from ground engagements -- a total of 383 dead and 797 injured -- rose 47 percent...”
Civilian casualties inflicted during aerial operationsby both the Afghan Air Force and international military forces more than doubled, to 57 deaths and 104 injured, in the first half of 2016.
“This raises concerns that as ground engagements and air attacks by Afghan armed forces increase, not all necessary precautions are being taken to minimize civilian harm,” the HRW director noted.
He also pointed out that there was no evidence that commanders responsible for serious laws-of-war violations were being held accountable.
Kinestressed the Taliban needed to stop the practice of targeting civilians, as defined by the laws of war. The Afghan government should also take substantive measures to change its forces’ battlefield conduct, he added.
The government was urged to limit the use of artillery, bombsand other weapons with wide explosive effects in populated areas. The government was also asked cease arming militias, including uprisingforces that fall outside the regular chain of command.
“Such militias have a dismal record of abuse, including summary executions of non-combatants, and they have exacerbated tensions rather than providing security for the civilian population,” he concluded.
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