UN urges parties to prioritize protection of civilians, start talks
KABUL– The first half of 2020 saw fluctuating levels of violence affecting civilians in Afghanistan, with the United Nations documenting 3,458 civilian casualties (1,282 killed and 2,176 injured), according to a new report released today.
While the number of civilian casualties is a 13% drop from the first six months of 2019, Afghanistan remains one of the world’s deadliest conflicts for civilians. But it is clear that there has been no reduction in civilian casualties caused by the Taliban and the Afghan national security forces. The main reason for the drop in civilian casualties is due to a reduction in operations by international military forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan province, according to the report released by the Assistance Mission. United Nations in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
“At a time when the Afghan government and the Taliban have a historic opportunity to come together at the negotiating table for peace talks, the tragic reality is that the fighting continues to inflict terrible damage on civilians every day,” he said. said Deborah Lyons, Secretary of State. -General’s special representative for Afghanistan.
“I urge the parties to pause, reflect on the appalling incidents and the damage they are causing to the Afghan people, as documented in this report, and take decisive action to stop the carnage and get to the table. negotiations, ”Lyons said. , who is also the head of UNAMA.
Anti-government elements (AGEs) continued to be responsible for the majority of civilian casualties, with UNAMA documenting a worrying increase in civilian casualties attributed to the Taliban by pressure plate improvised explosive devices, as well as kidnappings that have leads to ill-treatment. and summary executions. In total, 58% of civilian casualties were caused by AGEs, with the Taliban responsible for 1,473 (580 killed and 893 injured) representing 43% of the total civilian casualties during the period January 1 to June 30, 2020 .
Civilian casualties attributed to the Afghan national security forces increased by 9%, mainly due to airstrikes and the use of indirect fire during ground engagements. The civilian casualties of the Afghan Air Force airstrikes in the first six months of 2020 tripled compared to the same period in 2019. The Afghan National Security Forces were responsible for 23% of the total number of casualties civilians during the first half of the year, 789 people (281 killed and 508 injured). Pro-government forces remained responsible for most of the child deaths.
UNAMA has not documented any civilian casualties attributed to international military forces as a result of active hostilities during the second quarter of 2020.
Ground engagements remained the main cause of civilian casualties, the majority – two-thirds – caused by the use of indirect fire, especially in areas populated by civilians. The use of improvised explosive devices (suicide and non-suicide) was the second leading cause of civilian casualties, followed by targeted assassinations. UNAMA is particularly concerned about the deliberate targeting of civilians, including religious leaders, health professionals, members of the judiciary, civil society activists, non-governmental organization workers and journalists.
Women and children continue to be disproportionately affected by the direct and indirect effects of armed conflict, accounting for over 40% of total civilian casualties. In the first six months of the year, the armed conflict left 397 women (138 killed and 259 wounded) and 1,067 children (340 killed and 727 wounded). The report notes that children in Afghanistan are particularly vulnerable to recruitment and use by parties to conflict, including for combat functions, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report also highlights the lasting impact of the armed conflict on civilians. New UNAMA monitoring shows victims suffer untold harm weeks and months after an incident has occurred, including physically, emotionally and psychologically, financially and otherwise, affecting their ability to enjoy a wide range of lives. human rights. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reduced the ability of victims to recover, making it even more imperative for parties to conflict to reduce violence now and to recognize and respond to the needs and rights of victims.
“The experiences, rights and needs of individuals and communities who have been affected by violence must be a central consideration in future peace talks,” said Fiona Frazer, head of human rights at UNAMA.