Annual report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict in Afghanistan 2020 – Afghanistan


KABUL – The number of civilians killed and injured has risen in Afghanistan after the start of peace negotiations in September, although overall figures for 2020 are down due to lower civilian casualties rates earlier in the year, according to a report released today by UN Assistance. Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the United Nations Human Rights Office.

The 2020 annual report on the protection of civilians in Afghanistan in armed conflict documents the appalling level of damage inflicted on civilians and traces the worrying increase in violence against them in the last quarter of the year.

“2020 could have been the year of peace in Afghanistan. Instead, thousands of Afghan civilians have perished as a result of the conflict, ”said Deborah Lyons, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan. “The overarching objective of this important report is to provide the responsible parties with facts and recommendations to take immediate and concrete action to protect civilians. I urge them not to waste a single day in taking urgent action to avoid further suffering. “

“Ultimately, the best way to protect civilians is to establish a humanitarian ceasefire,” said Lyons, who is also the head of UNAMA. “Parties refusing to consider a ceasefire must recognize the devastating consequences of such a stance on the lives of Afghan civilians.

For the seventh consecutive year, UNAMA has documented more than 3,000 civilians killed in a single year, with Afghanistan remaining one of the deadliest places in the world for a civilian.

A distressing aspect of the conflict remains the shocking and disproportionate impact on Afghan women and children. They represent 43% of all civilian casualties: 2,619 children (30%) and 1,146 women (13%). More women were killed in the conflict in 2020 than in any year since UNAMA began systematic documentation in 2009. A total of 1,150 women and children have been killed (390 women and 760 children).

The total number of civilian casualties in 2020 of 8,820 (3,035 killed and 5,785 injured) fell below 10,000 for the first time since 2013 and was down 15% from 2019. Although the numbers reduced Welcome, the documentation shows that the lower levels of damage were partially offset by increases due to certain tactics, as well as an unusual increase in damage to civilians in the last quarter of the year.

Peace negotiations in Afghanistan, which began between representatives of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban in Qatar on September 12, have failed to mitigate the scale of civilian damage, a key indicator of levels of violence. Instead, there has been an escalation in violence with worrying trends and consequences.

For the first time since it began systematically documenting in 2009, UNAMA has documented an increase in the number of civilian casualties recorded in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter. In addition, this period marked a 45% increase in the number of civilian casualties compared to the same three months in 2019, especially due to the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and targeted killings.

In October, civilian casualties were the highest of any month in 2020, and the following month UNAMA recorded the highest number of civilian casualties of any November since records began in 2009. Along with the ‘Global increase in violence, by the end of the year the population faced a wave of targeted assassinations, referred to by many as “assassinations,” including civilians from the media, civil society, the judiciary and civilian government administration, as well as family members of combatants.

The United Nations Secretary-General and the Security Council have always called for a global humanitarian ceasefire as the best way to protect civilians. With no end to the conflict, the parties must prevent and mitigate civilian casualties, including by adhering to the report’s recommendations. The report also reminds the parties that deliberate attacks targeting civilians or civilian objects are serious violations of international humanitarian law which may constitute war crimes.

Anti-government elements (AGEs) in 2020 caused the majority of civilian casualties (62%), totaling 5,459 casualties – 1,885 killed and 3,574 injured, with the Taliban responsible for most of these casualties (45% of the total) and Islamic State in Levant-Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP) responsible for 8 percent.

Pro-government forces (PGFs) caused a quarter of all civilian casualties, for a total of 2,231 (841 killed and 1,390 injured), a drop of 24% from 2019, Afghan National Security Forces being the cause of most of these deaths (22% of the total).

The overall reduction in the number of civilian casualties in 2020 was due to factors such as the decrease in AGE suicide bombings causing large numbers of civilian casualties, especially in urban areas, and a sharp drop in the number of attributed casualties. to international military forces.

Although there has been an increase in the number of civilian casualties that were not claimed by any party and for which UNAMA could not attribute responsibility, the report finds that the Taliban caused 19% fewer civilian casualties. than in 2019 and ISIL-KP 45%. less.

Surprisingly, international military forces in 2020 were responsible for their lowest number of civilian casualties on record since UNAMA began documenting in 2009. In 2020, that figure was 120 civilian casualties, down from 786 in 2019, a drop from 85%.

A matter of deep concern remains the continued attacks deliberately targeting civilians by AGEs. This includes attacks targeting members of the judiciary, the media and civil society, as well as religious minorities, in particular the Shia Muslim population, most of whom also belong to the Hazara ethnic group, and the Sikh population.

Indiscriminate attacks, such as the use of pressure plate IEDs by the Taliban, also remain a concern. These devices are victim activated and cannot be aimed at a specific target. Likewise, concerns remain about vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices which cause numerous civilian casualties due to the high explosive power used, even if they are not directed against civilians or civilian objects.

The use of explosive weapons in areas populated by civilians, in particular the use of indirect fire, such as artillery shells, mortars and rockets during ground engagements, but also the use of strikes aircraft and improvised explosive devices in areas populated by civilians is also of great concern.

Ground engagements were the main cause of civilian casualties in 2020 (36%), a slight increase from 2019. They were followed by AGE suicide and non-suicide attacks using improvised explosive devices (34.5% ), a decrease of 30%. . Assassinations targeted at EGMs (14%) increased by 45%; and PGF airstrikes (8%) were down 34%.

Through post-incident interviews with the victims and their families, UNAMA has identified that the parties must do more to recognize and take responsibility for the damage they have caused. The majority of victims interviewed continued to need financial assistance, protection, medical care and psychosocial support following an incident. Many did not know much if an investigation was underway and demanded justice, information and / or an apology from those responsible.

“We must not forget the ever increasing number of women, men, boys and girls affected by the conflict. They have lost loved ones, suffered injuries, had to leave their homes and face economic and social hardships. In too many cases, they feel abandoned, ”said Fiona Frazer, UNAMA’s human rights officer. “They ask that their grief be recognized, their voice heard and an end to the conflict. 2020 was the year the Afghans dared to hope for peace, instead they found themselves facing more violence. “

Read the report

UNAMA is helping the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the prevention and resolution of conflicts, the promotion of inclusion and social cohesion, as well as the strengthening of regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions based on respect for human rights. UNAMA provides “good offices” and other key services, including diplomatic measures that rely on the independence, impartiality and integrity of the organization to prevent disputes from arising, s ‘worsen or spread. The Mission coordinates international support for Afghan development and humanitarian priorities.

Media contact: Porte- [email protected] (link sends e-mail).

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